When I first created this blog, I thought long and hard about what to call it.  A good name is important.  It needs to be catchy and memorable, but for me, at least, it was also important for it to say something about me, about who I am and what I’m trying to do in this blog. Eventually I thought about the old nursery rhyme –

Monday’s child is fair of face/ Tuesday’s child is full of grace/ Wednesday’s child is full of woe/ Thursday’s child has far to go/ Friday’s child works hard for a living/ Saturday’s child is loving and giving/ But the child who is born on the Sabbath day/ Is bonnie and blithe and good and gay.

Tuesday’s child has always resonated the most with me, because more than anything, I want my life to be full of grace.  Of course it’s important to me to have a gracious home (although chaos is probably a more apt description most days), but it goes beyond that.  What I’m constantly searching for is grace in the way I conduct myself, grace in the way I look at the world, grace in the way I treat others, grace in the way I see.

As a Christian, grace has a far more profound meaning to me.  As I’ve gotten to know Jesus, my life has been filled with a kind of grace that I never imagined.  “Out of His fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.”  John 1:16.  There have been some tough times in my life, times full of tears, doubt, anger and fear.  And yet those are the times when I’ve really learned what God’s grace is all about.  Somehow, when I’ve had no other choice but to rely on Him, I’ve come out of those times with my faith stronger and more alive than ever.  Having been touched by that grace, I want it to permeate my life in every way.

Graciousness is an old value that isn’t appreciated as much as I think it ought to be.  After my grandma died many years ago, I remember someone saying at her funeral that she was a real lady.  That comment stuck with me, because it was true. Nana epitomized graciousness in her life.  Her life wasn’t easy – she went through a lot of hard times in her too-short life – but by the grace of God she came through them a victor.  She was genuinely kind to those around her.  As a child her house was the happiest place I could imagine going.  The meals were the best I’ve ever eaten.  There were shelves full of carefully selected treasures waiting to be explored.  There was a big box of dress-up clothes in the basement, a pond for swimming and boating, and a hammock for reading books on warm summer afternoons.  Mostly, though, I loved going there because she loved us so much.  She has always been my role model.

What does it mean to live a gracious life? I have a picture in my head of a plantation-style house set somewhere in rolling green hills, with huge ferns hanging from the wrap-around porch and a pitcher of iced tea sweating on a table next to a row of rocking chairs.  In this picture in my head, you would open the french doors, and enter a house filled with a mixture of good antiques and comfortable, family-friendly furniture.  There would be a few original landscapes on the walls, and an old dog curled up in a corner.  The master bathroom would be full of good quality cosmetics, and the closet full of classic, elegant clothes.  The house would be full of the sound of children’s laughter, and the smell of home cooking.

Unfortunately the picture in my head doesn’t match all that well with the reality of my day to day life.  Reality is a house where the dirty dishes pile up by the sink until they (usually) get washed sometime before bedtime. It’s a house where the laundry is a never-ending chore, and while it all gets washed, dried, and (sort of) folded, it’s a rare week when the clean laundry is all put away before it’s time for the next wash day.  Reality is spaghetti for supper – again – because I’m working late, or too tired to cook a good dinner.  It’s running around like crazy, trying to get everyone to soccer, or campouts, or church, or work.  It’s throwing on whatever is clean instead of putting together a casually chic outfit.

Graciousness in the midst of everyday life is more of a frame of mind than an outward manifestation.  Grace is remembering to laugh every single day, to hug your children tight and let you know that you love them, even if they forgot to shower that day and look like they just came out of an orphanage.  Grace is lighting a candle in the evening and taking a few minutes to snuggle with the one you love.  It’s spending time every day drinking in the Word and talking to the Creator, even if its in the car on the way to work.  Grace is finding the calm in the midst of the storm.  Tuesday’s child is full of grace.

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After another nice long blogging break, I’m finally going to share with you the plans for our Family Room, and the progress so far!

The Family Room is a nice big room the opens directly onto the kitchen and the sunroom, and out onto the deck.  I’m really going to have to mock up a floor plan to show you how everything is laid out.  There are lots of windows and two skylights, so the room gets a ton of light.  It truly was a blank canvas when we moved in.

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We didn’t have any furniture to go in this room when we first moved in – all of our living room furniture from the last house went straight to the basement, except for the sofa table that sat behind our sectional in the old house. For a while it was kind of strange living here, since there was almost no furniture on the entire ground floor!

At first I thought we were going to have to wait quite a while to do much about the Family Room.  As anybody who’s ever moved knows, it is an expensive proposition.  There aren’t a lot of extra pennies available for a while after a major move.  Thanks to an extremely generous and thoughtful gift from family, however, we were blessed to be able to order some furniture right away.

In a way, it’s almost more of a challenge when you start with such a blank slate.  There are so many different directions we could have gone in here.  On the one hand, I was leaning toward a more traditional style of decor for this house to fit in with the colonial architecture, but I didn’t want it to feel too formal or stuffy.  We have a pretty casual lifestyle, and I knew this would be one of the most heavily used rooms in the house.  I also wanted to do something to perk up the overwhelming quantities of beige everywhere in the house – beige walls, beige carpet, beige, beige, beige.  As I looked for inspiration pictures, I found myself pinning more and more pictures with pops of color.

The first week in our house, while Sean was out of town, my mom and I went sofa shopping.  Talk about a nail-biting experience!  There are so many options out there, and since a sofa is a major furniture purchase, you want to choose carefully.  It had to be pretty, of course, but I also wanted it to last for many years, and to stand up to the abuse of dogs and kids and still look good.  Our last sofa purchase was a bonded leather sectional which we got on impulse at a going out of business sale because it was such a great buy.  It was super comfortable, and I thought that being leather, it should be durable and last for a long time.  Boy was I wrong!  Within a couple of years, it was looking kind of rough, as the leather started peeling all over.  I learned a valuable lesson – do your research!

This time around I wanted a fabric sofa instead of leather.  Something reasonably priced and built to last.  I was strongly leaning toward a dark charcoal sofa, and we looked at options from Crate and Barrel, Pottery Barn, West Elm, Macy’s, Room and Board, and others.  All of them looked great, but we wanted to make sure that it would still look good in ten or fifteen years instead of going out to the curb in five. 

Eventually my mom said, “Let’s just go to Ethan Allen.”  Frankly, I hadn’t even thought of going there, because Ethan Allen’s prices are usually a lot higher than my cheap self would ever consider.  Plus, I also had this mental image of Ethan Allen as being kind of stuffy and formal, which wasn’t what I was going for at all.  But it never hurts to look.

I was pleasantly surprised as we wandered through the showroom.  Sure, a lot of the pieces were very elegant and too fussy for me, but they also had a lot of really fun pieces in bright colors, like this Ming sideboard in a distressed turquoise which I completely fell in love with. 

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Then we saw it – the Retreat sectional.  Right away, we knew it was The One.

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It was comfortable.  It was traditional with a modern edge.  It was sturdy.  And it was on sale!  This photo shows the sectional with a rolled arm, but the one in the showroom had a straight arm, adding a more modern edge.  The great thing about Ethan Allen is that you can customize their pieces in so many ways.  They have different finishes, tons of fabrics to choose from, and often lots of options, from the firmness of the seat cushions, to the shape of the arms and legs.  They also offer a great free design service, which we decided to take them up on.

The designer from Ethan Allen, Nazee, made some notes about the pieces I liked, and a couple of days later she came out to the house and made measurements.  I filled out a questionnaire about my design preferences, and she took note of some of the colors and style of some artwork I had stacked in a corner. About a week later, I went back to the showroom for her to present her design.

As soon as I walked in, I knew I was going to love it.  Nazee had set up a display in the showroom with all the fabric samples and colors she was suggesting.  The second I saw turquoise and green, I knew I was going to love it. 

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I absolutely loved everything Nazee proposed…except the price tag.  We had given her an estimated budget, and asked her to focus on the Family Room and the Sun Room.  All of the pieces she proposed came in at a mere $10,000 over budget!  I about had a stroke.  After I finished passing out, I took a closer look at the itemized list.  Where Ethan Allen really gets you is on the accessories.  They are out of sight expensive.  For example, the 8 x 10 rug she proposed, while gorgeous, was nearly $4,000.  Not gonna happen, as much as I loved it.  The coffee table alone was about $2,000.  Not! 

Fortunately, the big pieces, like the sectional and the chair and ottoman, while a little more expensive than you might spend at a big box store, were fairly reasonable, especially since the sectional was 20% off.  Considering that these pieces should last for many years, I was willing to spend a little more, knowing that it will actually save money in the long term.  I ended up ordering just the sectional, a swivel chair and ottoman, and two side tables.  Everything else I knew I could order later, when money became available, or find cheaper alternatives.

Don’t expect instant gratification from Ethan Allen.  It took eight weeks for the sectional to arrive, and the chair and ottoman still haven’t arrived, twelve weeks later.  I got a call last week to schedule delivery, and I’m super excited for them to arrive.  It’s a good thing I had some time, though, because there were a few things I needed to do first.  Like paint.

If you remember, when this house was renovated, they used the cheapest possible paint, so cheap it scrubs right off the wall if you try to wipe off a mark.  Since I was going to have to repaint anyway, it made sense to do it before the furniture arrived.  I’m so glad I did.  It would have been really tough to put up ladders and get those walls painted once the room was full of stuff.  It only took me two days to paint, although it was a pain in the neck trying to get to the highest parts of the wall.  I used Benjamin Moore’s Edgecomb Gray, which Sherwin Williams mixed for me.  It’s only a shade different than what was already on the walls, but isn’t quite as pinkish.  I’m really pleased with how it turned out.  The paint I used was great – it only took one coat to cover.  Use plenty of painter’s tape to keep your lines clean!

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This is how the Family Room looks today.  The chair and ottoman have yet to come, as well as some colorful cushions for the sectional.  I would also like a pretty rug to tie everything together, but I’m waiting for the chair to come first. 

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The accessories I found were all bargains.  The tripod lamps came from Lamps Plus ($150 on sale vs. nearly $600 at Ethan Allen!), and the art was from World Market.  The coffee table had been sitting out in our garage for years – all it needed was a good going over with Restor-A-Finish and a couple of coats of Howard’s Feed and Wax to make it look presentable again. 

It’s all coming together.  I need shades for the windows, and maybe some drapes, and a little more color, but I’m so excited to have a place for people to sit.  We can put a ton of people in here now, which will be great for entertaining.  Progress is a beautiful thing!

 

Well we’ve been in the new house for about eight weeks now, as hard as that is to believe.  It has gone by very quickly indeed!  I’m excited to say that in that amount of time, we’ve made incredible progress.  You never know how much stuff you really have until you move.  Even after making trip after trip to Goodwill before moving, we still ended up with an enormous pile of boxes to sort through on the other side. 

Unpacking is possibly my least favorite chore, even less so than packing.  We had marked all of the boxes, of course, and the movers roughly sorted things as we moved in, but there were still lots of boxes that ended up in the wrong place, or weren’t very well marked to begin with, so we had a lot of sorting to do as we unpacked.  Sean had to make a trip out of the country just two days after we arrived, so he wasn’t able to help much.  Thankfully my mom was here for the first week, and she was a lifesaver.  Without her, I might have just sat down and bawled my eyes out because I was so overwhelmed!  Fortunately, spring break at the kids’ new school coincided with our first week in Maryland, so that was one less headache to worry about. 

The first week was dedicated to finding and unpacking just the essentials.  The kitchen was up first.  It took two or three days to unpack completely, but once the kitchen was done, I took a deep breath and began to see a faint ray of light at the end of the tunnel. By the end of the week, we had the furniture in place, and all the essentials unpacked.  We had also ordered furniture for the living room (more on that in the next post), hung blinds in all the upstairs bedrooms, taken the kids for physicals, bought school uniforms, and generally worked our tails off, but I was beginning to feel less like we were just camping out in the house.

Our kitchen is a good sized room, with lots and lots of cabinet space.  There is a small laundry room off to one side which opens into the garage, and contains a large pantry.  With all that space, you would think it would be quick and easy to unpack.  Not so!  I quickly discovered that we have a LOT of kitchen stuff.  Not as much as some people, but still.  Hello, my name is Catherine, and I’m a kitchen hoarder.  Even so, it wasn’t really the amount of stuff that really slowed down the unpacking process, but lining all the shelves first.

I know a lot of people don’t bother with lining shelves, but it’s something my mom always did, and I’ve always done the same.  It makes a lot of sense, when you think about it. Our kitchen cabinets are brand new, and although they aren’t the highest quality, they look pretty good, and I want to keep them that way as long as possible.  The shelves get a lot of hard use, especially those where we keep our everyday dishes, the pots and pans, and the spices.  Without a liner, it’s only a matter of time before the shelves will be scratched to bits.  I used the Rationell Variera drawer and shelf liner from Ikea.  At $3.99 a roll, it’s sturdy and affordable. The liner is a heavy plastic with embossed dots, so it should last for years and prevent dishes from slipping and sliding.  The only drawback is that the stuff comes packaged in a tight roll, and once unwound, it tends to curl right back up.  This made it hard to cut to size, and a pain to keep flat.  We ended up just weighting down the corners with whatever was in the cabinet, and it will flatten over time, but I’ve also read that if you submerge the sheets in hot tap water, or put them in the dryer, they will flatten out. Next time I’ll try that and see how it works.

Anyway, with so many cabinets and drawers, it took FOREVER to line them all!  We probably ended up using about 15 or 20 rolls in all.  My mom and I had to keep consoling ourselves with the fact that this is a job we would only have to do once.  Back in the good old days when everyone used paper for lining shelves, the paper would have to be replaced every year or so when it wore out and started tearing.  Not with this stuff!

The real problem was the laundry room.  Although the basement utility room is plumbed for a washer and dryer, there is a second and more convenient hookup right next to the garage door off the kitchen.  It isn’t huge – basically there is just enough space to fit the washer and dryer side by side, with a one foot gap next to the washer.  The problem is that there was nowhere to actually store laundry supplies.  Even though we have a big pantry, it still isn’t large enough for all our groceries, cleaning supplies, recycling, AND laundry supplies.  Plus, I didn’t want to keep fabric softener, bleach, detergent and the like right next to our food.  Cheerios that taste like Downy are not high on my list of favorite things.  As a result, all the laundry room stuff ended up in a pile of boxes on the kitchen floor for the first couple of weeks.

The good thing is that there is plenty of vertical space above the washer and dryer.  I considered a couple of options.  At first, I wanted to put in some cabinets like we had in our old laundry room, and add a rod where I could hang up clothes as I took them out of the dryer, kind of like this:

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I love this…it’s bright, clean, and tidy, and keeps all of the “stuff” stashed away out of sight.  The problem is that cabinets, even the well-priced options from Ikea, are expensive.  I would want to put a cabinet in that space that is at least 36″ wide, and preferably one of the taller, 39″ cabinets to accommodate more storage.   With the door style I had in mind, the cabinet alone would cost $253, not including the cost of cover panels and trim to make it look really finished.  By the time all was said and done, the total cost for a laundry room makeover would have been close to $350. 

For a much cheaper option, I could have gone with inexpensive wire shelving, just like we have in the pantry:

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If the laundry room was in its own separate space where I could close the doors and never see it, I probably would have done this.  But since our laundry room opens onto the kitchen and we walk past it multiple times every day, I wanted something a little more finished looking.  Eventually, I decided to build my own floating shelves, like this:

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I found a great tutorial here, which I adapted slightly to suit my project.

Here is the “before” picture of our laundry room.  You’ll have to forgive the quality of these pictures – my cell phone was the only thing I had handy during this project.

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I started by measuring to determine where I wanted to put my shelves.  I used painter’s tape to mark the height of each shelf, and I marked the location of all the studs.

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Once that was done, I cut 1×2 pine boards to length and screwed them into the studs using leftover 3″ deck screws that we had out in the garage.  I also cut the 1×12 pine boards I was using for the shelves to size and sanded and painted them out in the garage so they would be easy to install later on.

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It was only at that point that it finally dawned on me that I really should have painted the laundry room before I started putting up shelves.  It wasn’t that I was so eager to paint – after having spent DAYS painting our old house before we move out, I can’t say I really ever wanted to pick up a paint brush again.  But when this house was renovated last year, the paint they used was the cheapest possible quality.  The moving in process had already marked up the walls in the laundry room, and I knew that once shelves were in, it would make it that much harder to paint later on.  So I grudgingly pushed pause on my shelf project and made a quick trip to Sherwin Williams, which was luckily having a huge 50% off sale.  I picked up a gallon of green paint, which I had color matched to Benjamin Moore’s Guildford Green, and started painting. 

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A couple of hours later, after the paint was dry, I secured the 1×12 boards to the cleats with our nail gun.  To make the shelves look more substantial and finished, I also nailed pieces of molding to the front of the shelves.  Once it was all in, I caulked all the seams, touched up the paint, and voila!

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I’m really pleased with the way this quick and easy project turned out.  If it hadn’t been for painting the walls, the whole project probably wouldn’t have taken me more than two hours, including sanding and painting.  The shelves are low enough that I can reach them. and they hold a lot of stuff where it is easily accessible.  I also added a door rack to the back of the pantry door to hold cleaning supplies, and this over the door valet  from Bed Bath and Beyond to hang clothes up as they come out of the dryer.

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In total, this project cost less than $50, not including the cost of the wall paint, so I saved about $300 over my original plan.  I’d like to make it look a little more styled, but I couldn’t be happier to have the pile of laundry supplies finally off the kitchen floor!

Wow, I just looked back at my blog and realized that it has been TWO YEARS since I posted anything!  Unacceptable, people, this is unacceptable!

My lapse in blogging is due to a couple of things.  For one, I tend to just dash off a quick status update on Facebook now for the most part to keep my friends and family up to date on our lives.  More importantly, though, the last two years have been…hectic. Things at work got much more intense after one of our other lawyers left, and was never really replaced.  I inherited a lot of his workload, and kept adding to my own, to the point where I was quite literally overwhelmed.  Things at home never slowed down either.  In the last two years, we have done so many home improvement projects to the house you would not believe it.  I’m sick that I didn’t blog our progress – the house looks terrific now!  Add to all of that growing kids who are increasingly involved in school activities and extra-curriculars, and well, the day just isn’t long enough to get everything done.  Something had to give, and so blogging went to the wayside.

But in the past couple of months, everything has changed.  Late last year, Sean was approached about taking a new job in Silver Spring, Maryland.  After lots of prayer and soul searching, we decided that accepting it was the best decision for our family.  It wasn’t an easy decision to make – we love New Mexico and have so many friends there, plus the kids were blessed with a wonderful school that we truly loved, and we were very close to our church family also.  But just when you start getting too settled, God has a way of moving you out of your comfort zone!

Back in January, we started getting really serious about this move.  Sean’s new job started on February 1, and the logistics of planning and executing a cross-country move while balancing two careers and school were kind of boggling.  Plus, as an attorney, I needed to take the Maryland Out of State Attorney Exam before I could be licensed to practice law in Maryland.  The exam was scheduled for the end of February.  Initially we had considered waiting to move over until May, when school ended, but it quickly became clear to us that we didn’t want to wait that long.  Sean’s new job involves lots and lots of travel.  If we were in New Mexico, he would end up spending almost all of his time away from home, while I would be essentially a single mom.  It can be done, of course.  Think of all the military wives who do this all the time.  My hat is off to them, for all they do.  Even so, it was hardly an ideal situation.

So we decided to step out in faith, and trust that God would help all of the pieces fall into place.  At the same time as we were getting our house in New Mexico ready to sell, we started house hunting in Maryland.  The internet is a wonderful thing!  Realtor.com, Trulia, and Redfin were my go-to resources for finding listings that looked interesting to be checked out later. We decided that cutting down on commute time was our number-one priority.  We already knew where Sean would be working, and which school we wanted to send the kids to, so I drew a circle with a five-mile radius around the school, and concentrated our search on that area.  I also had a mental wish-list of things I wanted in a new house.  Well, it wasn’t just a mental wish-list, I actually wrote one down:

  • I wanted a newer house where we hopefully wouldn’t have all the expensive, time-consuming maintenance of an older house.
  • Colonial floorplans were my favorite, and are fortunately extremely plentiful in this area.
  • I wanted an open floor plan, with traditional elements, but a modern sensibility.
  • Hardwood floors, stone tile, and nice appliances would be a plus, but since those could be added later, not essential.
  • A private lot with low maintenance landscaping and a shady porch would be ideal.
  • I didn’t want a house in a homeowner’s association.  Some HOAs are almost non-existent, but some are like the yard police.  I didn’t want the hassle, or the extra HOA fees, which can be really high sometimes.
  • For this house, we didn’t want a fixer-upper.  As much as I love a challenge, with Sean traveling so much, we knew we didn’t have the time for a complete renovation.

Every time I saw a listing online that looked like it met some or all of my criteria and fell into our price range, I would favorite it.  When the time came to make a house hunting trip in January, I was able to send our realtor a list of about ten of my top picks to show her what we were looking for.  She added another two listings she thought we might be interested in, and we spent two days looking at houses.

House hunting in the DC suburbs was slightly disheartening.  This is an expensive area, no doubt about it.  I had done the math, and knew what we could afford to pay, and for the most part, that got you a 1970s/early 80s colonial, or a 1950s/1960s split-level.  The houses were in decent shape (except for the foreclosure which hadn’t been cleaned out – we made the mistake of opening the door to the refrigerator full of rotting food – gag!), but needed a lot of updating, work which would take time and cost money we didn’t have.  But there was one listing we kept coming back to over and over again.  The house fit almost all of my criteria perfectly.  It was built in 1994, which isn’t new, I know, but several decades newer than some of the houses we looked at!  Plus it was a flip house – an investor had purchased it out of foreclosure and completely renovated the house.  It had a new kitchen, all new paint, carpet, hardwood flooring, a new master bathroom, and a fully finished basement.  It was great!  Even though it was in an HOA, the dues were only $7 a month – I could live with that.  The only drawback was the size of the lot, which was miniscule, and the price, which was slightly higher than the other houses we had looked at.

As much as we loved that house, we ended up making an offer on a different house, one which was older, and needed a lot of updating, but was less expensive, and located only about three minutes away from school.  It was a great house with a huge yard backing up to the woods, and an amazing deck.  Even though it needed work – a lot of work – the house had potential, and it was only a mile or so from school.  But the owners didn’t accept our offer, which was in line with the comps in the area.  Not only that, but they were insulted by the offer, and didn’t even make a counteroffer!  We tried again with a slightly higher offer, but still nothing.

We were a little worried by this time, because it was getting into February, and we knew the housing market would be heating up in the spring.  House prices in the DC area had jumped significantly over the last year, and already listings were being marked UP in price, rather than down.  We knew that bidding wars are common in this area, and that houses often sell within days in desirable areas.  So we came back to the listing we had initially liked the most.  It was more expensive, but on the other hand, since it was already updated, it might actually be cheaper for us in the long run.  Plus it was in a great area, right next to a toll road and only a mile and a half from the metro, while still close to school and Sean’s office.  We crossed our fingers and made a pretty aggressive offer.  Somewhat to my amazement, the owner came back with an extremely reasonable counteroffer, and we were under contract!

I won’t bore you with the details of how stressful it was to get that contract closed – if you’ve ever bought a house, you know what I’m talking about.  It had all of that, and then some.  Suffice it to say that by the end of March, the house was ours.  Moving day was March 21.  Want to see?  These are pictures from the real estate listing, and they must have been taken in the fall.  These don’t show the whole house, but they’ll give you an idea of the main areas.  As you can see, it is a blank slate.  I have big plans for this place!

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A week ago, I opened my big mouth and told everyone I want to lose 15 pounds and just how I wanted to do it.  Having done that, I feel it’s now my moral responsibility to own up to how it’s going.  So without further ado…

I lost 6 pounds last week!!

Since my goal was only a reasonable 1 1/2 pounds, I’m pretty happy.

It’s gone really well so far.  Planning in advance makes such a difference.  I’ve been eating healthier and controlling portions.  Although I usually eat a little more than my 1200 calories for the day, I’ve been more than making up the difference by going for a brisk walk as often as I can at lunch time and doing a half hour on the elliptical trainer most evenings.  It makes a huge difference.

The 1200 calorie thing has been surprisingly manageable, and although I’m always ready for the next meal, I haven’t felt starved or deprived at all.  Here is my menu plan for last week:

Breakfast

  • Frozen waffles
  • Sliced apples
  • Sprinkle of cinnamon/pumpkin pie spice
  • Honey
  • Cereal w/ strawberries
  • Whole wheat English Muffin
  • Poached Egg
  • Low Fat Cheese
  • Tomato slices
  •  Green smoothie
  • Whole wheat toast
  • Grapefruit half
  • Boiled eggs x 2
  • Oatmeal w/ berries, nuts, flaxseed, brown sugar

Lunch

  • Lentil soup
  • Crackers
  • Salad
  • Caramel chew
  • Vegetarian Tuna Salad on toast
  • Carrot sticks w/ yogurt dip
  • Grapes
  • Veggie BLT
  • Yogurt
  • Apple
  • Hummus sandwich on pita (tomato, lettuce or sprouts, cucumber, light ranch)
  • Trail mix
  • Strawberries
  • Meatball sandwich
  • Pickle
  • Sunchips

Dinner

  • Irish “beef” stew
  • Cottage cheese
  • Salad w/ pears and pecans
  •  Taco Night
  • Grilled salmon w/ mango salsa
  • Salad
  • Roasted corn relish
  • Banana Pudding
  • Quinoa burgers
  • Burger Fixings
  • Fruit salad
  • Vegeburger Roast
  • Baked Potatoes
  • Peas
  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Angel food cake w/ mixed berry topping

This meal plan is only for five days, because the weekends usually follow a pretty fixed routine – bowl of cereal and fruit for breakfast on Sabbath, followed by lunch at church and tortilla pizzas or popcorn and smoothies for supper, and big brunch on Sunday followed by haystacks Sunday night.

So I’m off to a good start, and hopefully this will keep me motivated to keep going!

I never had a problem with my weight until I was in my mid-twenties.  In college I didn’t have a car, so I walked everywhere, including a couple of miles into town at least once or twice a week.  Problem solved.  After I graduated, I got married and moved to Albania.  Again, I didn’t have a car, so I walked everywhere and never had any problems.

Then, in 2000, we moved back to the States.  My physical activity levels plummeted, because all of a sudden we drove everywhere.  Combine this with lots of eating out and sedentary desk jobs, and by the time I got pregnant with my first child I was getting a little – solid.

Fortunately for me, pregnancy was the best thing ever for my figure.  True, I gained a healthy 30 or so pounds while I was pregnant and felt like a blimp right before delivery, but once the baby was born and I started breastfeeding, the pounds melted away like magic.  For many women I know that doesn’t happen, but for some reason, it did for me.  Within six months I was down to 125 pounds and a size 6.  It was awesome – I could see abs I never knew I had!

My weight stayed roughly the same until baby #2 was a couple of years old, even though I had graduated from law school and gotten another sedentary desk job.  Eventually, though, a couple of pounds started to creep back on.  Then 3 1/2 years ago, we moved to Albuquerque.  A 45 minute commute, together with packing lunches every day, helping kids with homework, and a day behind the computer has taken its toll.  Bit by bit, the weight had piled on, one latte at a time, until I realized recently to my horror that I was only a few pounds away from my top weight.

Now I wouldn’t say I’m overweight, but things are definitely not as toned as they used to be.  Sleeveless shirts are out (unless it gets really hot, and then I just don’t care), and muffin top is a real concern in a couple of pairs of jeans I used to love.  I realized that if I don’t stop the madness now, things could very easily get a lot worse from here.  So this is the part where we take charge, people!

The good thing is that overall I already eat a healthy, balanced diet.  I try to cook almost every night, and I almost always pack lunches instead of eating out.  I very rarely drink soda or fruit juice, and I don’t usually eat big portions.  It’s taken nearly ten years to get back to this point, so I think that in general its safe to say that I’m already doing most things right.

The culprits are pretty easy to identify.  First and foremost, I am just not active enough.  After a long day and then coming home to cook, clean up, get kids ready for bed, and anything else I need to do, there just isn’t enough time.  Plus, I don’t get enough sleep so I’m often tired.  Secondly, I have a sweet tooth, I admit it.  It doesn’t help that there is a fabulous cupcake place across the street from my office, and those Little Debbies are hard to resist.  Finally, even though I make an effort to cook, on weeks when it gets really busy and I don’t have time to get to the grocery, it’s all to easy to pick up a pizza or some enchiladas instead.

But all this is about to change!  Here is my action plan for losing 15 pounds (25 pounds would make me ecstatic, but I’ll be pleased with 15).

  • Plan out everything I’m going to eat for the entire week.  I’ve been doing this for a while, and it helps in so many ways.  It means I know exactly what I need at the grocery, saving time and money.  Plus, I don’t have to worry about what to make for supper, meaning we aren’t tempted to eat out as much.
  • Limit sugars.  This one is obvious, but kind of hard to do at 3pm when those cravings hit.
  • I’m trying to do a better job at keeping my water bottle filled up.  It’s so easy to get dehydrated in our arid climate, and water is important for so many reasons.
  • Exercise more!  I looked into joining a gym near my office, but the high membership fee and 3 year contract (!!) put me off that idea.  Instead, I’m going for brisk lunchtime walks and using the elliptical trainer at home instead.
  • Get more sleep.  This is going to be important if I’m going to break through that evening tiredness barrier.
  • Use technology.  I put a great fitness app on my iPad called My Fitness Pal.  It makes it really easy to set a goal and track what I eat and my activity.  I put in my goal (lose 15 pounds at a rate of 1 1/2 pounds per week), and it calculated the maximum calories you can eat per day based on your personal statistics, without doing any extra exercise, to meet the goal.  For me, its a measly 1200 calories per day, but the nice thing is that as you add physical exercise, it adds that to your maximum intake for the day.  So if you burn 160 calories walking, you can eat 1360 calories instead of 1200; or, you will just lose weight faster!  Surprisingly, 1200 calories is not actually all that hard for me to do.  I just need to cut out snacks, desserts and second helpings.  When you get down to it, after all, losing weight is just a simple matter of burning more calories than you take in.  If you eat simple, healthy food instead of junk food, you can still feel full without all the extra calories.  For example, I had a big bowl of leftover homemade lentil barley soup for lunch today, which my handy app said has only about 160 calories.  A 7-layer burrito from Taco Bell (which I love, by the way) has 510 calories!

I’m also hoping to blog more often, to keep me more accountable.  My plan is to post my menus for the week, just in case somebody else needs a little inspiration too.

My plan is already working.  After just four days of exercising and being more careful about my diet, my mid-section is already a little less jiggly.  According to my app, if I’m able to lose a pound and a half a week, I should be able to meet my 15 pound goal by May, just in time for swimsuit season!  If I can get there faster, that will be an even nicer bonus.

Tuesday was Declan’s birthday.  It seems like he was looking forward to it for months, and it all seemed so far away, then suddenly it was here!  Since Sean was going to be away and its hard to do much celebrating on a school night anyway, we celebrated on Sunday instead.

The morning started with a special breakfast of pancakes with blueberry sauce and whipped cream, scrambled eggs, stripples (that’s fake bacon for you uninitiated people), orange juice, and kefir.  The table was set with fresh roses and candles, which may not be very boyish, but it made it all feel special just the same.

Blueberry Teeth

Declan would probably tell you he would have preferred a big party, but his party-pooper mother most emphatically did not!  Instead we invited over a couple of friends and went mini-golfing instead.  Fortunately we got there early – the day was gray and overcast, and by lunch time a steady drizzle had started falling.  Mini-golf was a great success – everyone got at least one hole in one!

After pizza for lunch, we went home to eat cake and open presents.

It’s time for a true confession.  I did not decorate Declan’s cake myself.  Nor did I buy him a fancy cake.  I had actually intended to bake and decorate a cute cake, but Declan begged to make it himself.  So I let him.  He and Aislin helped bake the cake that morning, and then after lunch I let all of the kids help with the decorating.  It might be a little unorthodox for the birthday boy to decorate his own cake, but the kids absolutely loved it.  What could be better than playing with icing?

Declan wanted a car cake, so we just mixed green food color into the icing, made a “road” with chocolate cookies and a yellow icing strip, and added a (new) Hot Wheels, letters and candles.  It turned out kind of cute, despite being possibly the simplest birthday cake ever.

The cake didn’t really matter, anyway, because as everyone knows, the presents are the only thing that really counts!  Declan did ok for his birthday – he got a skateboard, a remote control car, Legos, a model car,  an electronic Rubix Cube game, microscope supplies, a Spirogiro, and cold hard cash!  He also got a totally awesome Ice Road Truckers hat – which has hardly left his head since.  He even wanted to sleep in it!

It's good to have friends!

Oh yeah, these are the ice cream cone cupcakes I made for his class on Tuesday.  Cute, huh?  It’s my attempt to compensate for being one of those moms – you know, the ones who don’t know their children’s teachers, don’t go to PTO meetings, and are otherwise generally absent from their children’s educations.

Wow, nine years old.  I can’t believe that in just one more year I’ll have a child in the double digits!  Where did the time go?

Look what finally arrived this week.  Aren’t these some fine looking children?  Gosh, I wonder who they belong to?

Aislin - 1st Grade, Age 6

 

Aislin's First Grade Class

Declan - 3rd Grade, Age 8

 

Declan's Third Grade Class

 

William Shatner reminds us all to have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

Thanks for the feedback on the bathroom renovations so far.  It’s really helping me narrow down the choices.

So here are my updates so far –

After thinking about it, I decided that it would be much better to have a handheld showerhead as well and a fixed showerhead.  Initially I hadn’t ordered on to save money, but since we’ll be using this shower every day, I decided this would be indispensible for cleaning, washing the kids’ hair, and so on.  Here’s the one I ordered with a slide bar to coordinate with our Danze Parma fixtures:

I also decided to take your good advice and go with a really big mirror and mount the sconces directly on the mirror.  This ought to really make the room feel much bigger, and a little extra mirror coverage never hurts, especially when a couple of people are sharing a bathroom.  As a reminder, here are the sconces I bought:

Here are a few more inspiration pictures featuring really big mirrors.  I particularly like the one with the tile backsplash.  I think I’ll extend the mirror all the way to the ceiling, and possibly add a narrow wood frame.  I wonder if I should even extend it over the toilet?  I wonder how much a nine foot mirror would cost – or how I would get it home??? Hmmm, maybe too much mirror is not always a good thing.

Here is one more inspiration picture that I am drooling over.  I don’t get the weird pedestal-thingy in front of the window, but the rest of it is my absolute dream to-die for bathroom.  I love everything about it – the open vanity, the soapstone counter, the wood floors, the cream walls, that clawfoot tub, and of course, that rug.  An oriental rug in the bathroom is such a great idea.

Well at this stage it’s too late for a clawfoot tub, but I could at least have a similar rug.  This one is pretty, and since it’s an indoor-outdoor rug, it’s also practical for a wet area like a bathroom.

Progress – it’s a beautiful thing.  It will be even more beautiful when there is a fully functioning shower installed!