Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Recipe: Go Bananas!

I wish you could smell what my house smells like right now. If you make these muffins, you can! I adapted this recipe from my mom's original (aka... the BEST banana bread in the WORLD) to make it a bit healthier and portion controlled. The chocolate chips were a last-second decision. :)

Ingredients:
3 very ripe peeled bananas
1/2 cup Splenda Sugar Blend
1 egg (or 1/4 cup egg beaters original)
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
Optional: 3 Tbsp chocolate chips

Directions (with pictures!):

In a large bowl, mash bananas with a fork.



Stir in all other ingredients, except chocolate chips. I chose to use an egg instead of egg beaters, but if you wanted to cut down the fat a little bit more, you could substitute egg beaters.



Stir in chocolate chips. Make sure to use a cute measuring spoon like mine, which reads "a heap of love." :)



Spray a 12-muffin pan with nonstick spray or use cupcake liners. Use a 1/4-cup measuring cup to pour batter evenly into muffin pan. Use all batter evenly for each muffin.


Bake at 325 degrees for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Transfer to a cooling rack so you can enjoy them sooner. :)

For those who want to know, on the new Weight Watchers PointsPlus program these are 4 points for each muffin with the chocolate chips, or 3 points without.

If anyone's curious about the best banana bread recipe in the WORLD, here's the original recipe!

Ingredients:
3 very ripe peeled bananas
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup melted butter
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Directions:
Same as above. Spray a loaf pan with nonstick spray. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hr - 1 hr 15 min.

Go bananas!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Clean eating & new Weight Watchers Plan

After trying to eat COMPLETELY clean for a few weeks, I've realized it's not for me. I'd end up frustrated and eating whatever else I was craving (mainly junk foods). I already eat pretty healthy foods, but I was doing better and having more successful weight loss with things that have High Fructose Corn Syrup (or corn sugar as they're now calling it) or soy lecithin or whatever other "non-clean" ingredients might be included. I think I'll still make it my goal to AIM towards cleaner foods, but I can't handle it at this point in my life. Kudos to those that can.

On a better note, Weight Watchers is launching their newly revised PointsPlus plan today, which includes counting carbs and protein in addition to fat and fiber. I'm excited/nervous/annoyed/happy to start this. The annoyed/nervous part is because this will force a "back to basics" mentality as EVERYTHING has changed. I will need to carefully measure/weigh/count everything in order to make sure I'm within my daily Points total. The excited/happy part is because going back to basics is usually what helps give a kick to the weight loss and in a way jump-start everything again.
The bad part? Almost everything has gone UP in Points. Grr. The best parts? Almost every fruit and veggie is 0 Points value and the daily/weekly Points totals have gone up too!

Weight Watchers is a fantastic program. I highly recommend joining.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Finish Strong Challenge 2010 - Vol. 10

I have to confess, I didn't go to my weigh in this morning. Partly because I knew I overdid it this weekend with Thanksgiving and celebrating my dad's birthday more than once. I've actually slipped back into a lot of old eating habits in the last few weeks, and I've felt AWFUL. Seriously, I'm still stuffed from having dinner out and I do NOT like this feeling.

I'm hoping to do 30 Day Shred 4-5 times this week, in combination with some walking. Next week's weigh in might be a little weird because I will probably be weighing in on Friday. I'm excited to see the big change that Weight Watchers has in store!

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Finish Strong Challenge 2010 - Vol. 9

Just a quick update today...

That 30 Day Shred for just two days helped a TON, and I'm still sore. :)

The scale showed that I lost 1.8 lbs this week. Woo hoo! I broke out of my gaining streak! My total is now 62.8 lbs lost.

I have yet to plan out my meals for the week, but I imagine that it will be very similar to last week.

Exercise plan for the week:
Monday, Wednesday, Friday - 30 Day Shred Level 1
Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday - walking 30-60 minutes

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

workout schedule change...

I think I've been out of practice with working out for so long that I'm intimidated to jump back in. That's the thing I hate about taking a break... it's SO HARD to start again.

So here's the thing. I need something I KNOW will kick my butt quick and get me back in the habit. Hence, I decided to go with an oldie but a goody, The 30 Day Shred with Jillian Michaels.

If you don't own this, pick up a copy for $10 at Target, along with a pair of 3-lb dumbbells (trust me, they do the job). It's only 20 minutes long, and even the first level will make you sore the next day. Not only that, it's the most effective and quick results that I've seen in my weight loss journey.

I can commit to 20 minutes a day, right? So off to bed I go now because 5am won't get here any sooner (or later). Ugh....

Great article on small steps to a healthier lifestyle

This article was posted on the Weight Watchers facebook page this morning. It has fantastic advice for anyone who has decided to make a big change in their lifestyle but doesn't know where to begin, or for those who want to change so many things they get too overwhelmed. Read this for some simple tips:

You look in the mirror one day and everything is wrong. Your hair, your teeth, your skin, your shape. Especially your shape.

So you write a long list, and you make a pact with yourself that tomorrow you'll start a new whiz-bang weight-loss and life-changing plan. According to your calculations, you will be trim, taut and irresistible in three months.

Three weeks down the road, things are worse. What went wrong? Basically, you fell victim to the "END" (Everything Now Dilemma).

With END you have so much on your mind at once that you get confused, you forget a thing or two, you get rattled and then you give up. When you take one thing at a time, your chances for success get much better. Here's a seven-step plan that will help you to take it day by day.

This is as simple as the days of the week because that's how it works: seven days, seven steps. Each day you add one thing, so that by the end of the week you are juggling seven balls without dropping one. Here's how:

Monday
Back to work or school. Resolve that all you will do differently today will be to make sure to eat two or more pieces of fresh fruit. Any time, any way.

Tuesday
Today you will set some goals. Plan where you would like to be by the end of the month, then the end of the year — both in your private and personal lives. Write these goals in your diary or stick them where you'll see them.

Wednesday
Water day. Eat that fruit, keep your goals in mind and drink six or more glasses of water. Add variety with a squeeze of lemon or lime juice. Or sip on herbal tea if you prefer.

Thursday
Add in some exercise. Go for a 20- to 30-minute walk. Walk in the park, around your neighborhood or head for the mall and do some fast-paced window shopping...but don't forget the fruit, the water and to review your goals.

Friday
Fruit, walk, water, goals ... it's getting easier. So this is the day you give your diet a spring cleaning. Eliminate foods that are not helping you stay trim and healthy. You know what they are.

Saturday
Play day. Well done! You're still drinking plenty of water, including fresh fruit in your diet, exercising, eating well and generally staying on track with your life. Spoil yourself with a special treat. Go on, you deserve it. Have some frozen yogurt for dessert, take in that new movie, or plan a weekend away.

Sunday
Traditionally a day of rest. And you can rest, too, since relaxation is key to maintaining control over your new healthy regimen. Take time to lie in a hammock and gaze at the clouds. Put on a facial mask, take a long, luxurious bubble bath, read a book or play with your pet.

Now that wasn't so hard, was it? By the end of just one week you are happier, brighter, healthier and ready to keep going — because you know it takes just three weeks to create a habit. Except you will have created seven by then.


*Original article from Weight Watchers online is found here.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Finish Strong Challenge 2010 - Vol. 8

Okay, so enough is enough. I gained again this week, and even though it was only a .2 lb gain, it's still a move in the wrong direction. Time to get focused again. I've really got to try to focus my time management skills so I can fit in my exercise again.

Exercise plan for the week:
Monday: BBL Bum Bum (35 min) OR 30 Day Shred Level 1
Tuesday: BBL Cardio Axe (30 min), BBL High & Tight (35 min), walking
Wednesday: BBL Cardio Axe (30 min), BBL Bum Bum (35 min)
Thursday: P90X Cardio X (50 min)
Friday: BBL Cardio Axe (30 min), BBL High & Tight (35 min)

Eating this week will be focused on cleaner eating and cooking my meals at home, instead of relying on the convenience of restaurants and fast food - too pricey and too fattening!

Example of my meal plan for today:
Breakfast: 1 cup grapes, 1 organic banana, coffee w/creamer
Snack: 1/2 cup nonfat plain greek yogurt, 3/4 cup blueberries, 1/4 c protein granola
Lunch: 1 cup veggie soup w/3oz baked chicken breast and 1 cup whole wheat penne pasta mixed together
Snack: 2 dark chocolate squares, 1 apple, 1 Tbsp natural peanut butter
Dinner: 3 oz salmon, 2 Tbsp glaze, 1 cup baked zucchini w/olive oil & garlic

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Dining Room Reno Part 5: Curtains, I tell ya!

Man, was this a long adventure! I definitely learned a lot through this process. You would think that hanging curtains would be a simple process, but no. It actually took us 2 days and 3 trips to Home Depot before we got everything put together.

The first trip to Home Depot involved searching for a masonry drill bit for our lovely cinder block walls. I also picked up some primer and paint for my project with the dining set, but that's a different story. So I picked up a 1/8" masonry drill bit for us, since we were just going to use it to hang curtains and probably some pictures in the rest of the house in the future. I thought it was worth the $3 investment.

Well, once arriving home, I discovered that our curtain rod set did NOT come with the screws we needed to actually stick them in the walls. I had some screws from a previous trip to Lowe's that we were going to use to put our vent covers back up. I grabbed a pack of those screws, made sure that they fit our rod set, and got to marking out where I was going to drill. Well, after I got done drilling one side, I tried to use an electric screwdriver to get the screws in. However, the drill bit we had didn't make holes wide enough for the bigger screws to fit all the way in. So after some dinner and an episode of Bones, I went BACK to Home Depot to get a larger drill bit. I re-drilled the holes with the wider bit, and then successfully screwed in the screws. I did the same to the other side, but before I drilled the middle ones, I wanted to make sure the rod would fit.

When I hung the hooks that held the rod, Spencer pointed out that the hooks wouldn't hang straight because the screws were too big. He also pointed out that I had made my measurements based on the entire length of the rod, which was 79". I didn't take into account the decorative ends, where the hooks would not fit. We actually only had 74" to work with. I also tried to hang them too high, meaning that the decorative ends wouldn't clear the amount of space I had left above the hooks. Grr... I was extremely frustrated, so I just decided to go to bed and try again the next day (with Spencer's help this time).

The next morning, I went to Home Depot for the THIRD time to get the correct sized screws. I brought along the wall anchor for the hook so I could find the exact screws I would need. I snagged the ones I needed (plus some more primer for the dining room set), and headed home.
When we started this time, we went back to the original 1/8" drill bit, which amazingly worked with the correct sized screws. Oh well, I guess the bigger one will be good to have around, just in case.

I set Spencer to work with measuring out the placement of the holes to drill.


Once he was finished, I drilled all the holes and set the screws in place.


When we were finally finished, we realized we were about 1/8" too wide for the rod to fit, so I took down one of them and redrilled again. Third time's a charm, I guess. So we now have 6 holes to putty in and touch up with paint. But for all that trouble, the curtains look lovely. They allow a ton of light to come into the room still, but still soften up the window. They also look rockin' behind the buffet. :)


Daytime shine


Kinda hard to see in this pic because of all the light coming through


Nighttime finally allows a good picture.

Thanks for reading about our adventure!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dining Room Reno - Part 4: Shopping!

As I said in my previous post, we had a very successful yard sale last weekend. The next day, we took a trip up to Sacramento to Ikea and West Elm to get a few things for our dining room.

First stop was West Elm. I had printed out the website pages of the exact rug & curtains we wanted in advance, so all I had to do was hand them to the sales associate and she got them all ready for us! Of course we wanted to look around at all the other expensive things that we couldn't afford right now. I picked up some great decorating & design inspiration while we were there.

We purchased these lovely open-weave silk curtains:


And this beautiful rug (as well as an eco-friendly rug pad):


After West Elm, we got to meet up with Spencer's roommate from Teen Mania for lunch!
Here's Josh with us at our wedding:

We went to Red Robin - YUMMM! (Sorry, I couldn't resist!) It was lovely to visit again and to see Josh and his beautiful fiancee. :) We got to see their new condo that they'll be living in after their March 2011 wedding. Nichole is a fantastic decorator. I loved all the teal accents in their living room! I wish I had snapped some pictures. Oh well... guess that means we'll have to visit again!

After saying goodbye, we got on our way to Ikea. It had been raining all day, but once we started heading towards Ikea, the sun began to break through the clouds. It was fantastically cheesy. :)
Anyway, we had a few things on our list at Ikea, but we also wanted to price check a couple of things for the future while we were there. Spencer found the perfect desk for himself, and we agreed on a TV stand for whenever we get to updating our living room. Score!
However, when the whirlwind shopping trip was done, we came home with these lovely things:

A curtain rod for our new curtains

This isn't for the dining room, but I am so excited about this! We got some new, romantic bedding to replace my dingy old denim comforter that I've had since junior high. :)

We came home feeling very satisfied with our purchases.

One more thing that wasn't a part of this particular shopping trip, but is still on the dining room topic. I had been browsing online and in stores for a new lighting fixture for our dining room, when I stumbled upon this beauty from World Market:

After getting Spencer's approval, I drove back to World Market to pick up this Capiz chandelier. I think adds softer, more romantic lighting to our dining room.

I can't wait to see these things start to come together in the next few weeks!

Yard Sale! (LOTS of pictures)

Last weekend, Spencer and I had a very successful yard sale. While the main goal was to get rid of stuff, we ended up making a small fortune to spend on our dining room. :)

Our living room was a DISASTER area for about two weeks, and I'm so glad to have it mostly empty again. Here's just a few pictures of our pre-yard sale mess:

Me sitting on our new loveseat


View from the entryway


Rosie being very helpful and adorable


My collection of earrings (before)


My collection of earrings (after)

Some of our friends generously gave us a matching couch & loveseat set a few weeks ago (the green ones pictured above), so for the past two weeks, we looked like we owned a used furniture store.

We went through just about everything that we owned to try to get rid of stuff that we didn't need anymore. We went through closets, drawers, shelves, boxes, and piles and piles of stuff to bulk up our yard sale. We piled all of the yard sale items in boxes in front of the fireplace.

Altogether, we collected about 5 1/2 garbage bags of trash while going through all our stuff.

A few days before our sale, we posted an ad on craigslist. And then reposted it every day leading up to the sale. The night before, we put our keep pile back into our spare room and made signs for people to easily find our house. Our sale was advertised to start at 8am, so we set our alarms to get an early start the next morning.

We started setting up around 6am with hanging up the signs on the light poles leading up to our house. Then, we had to wrestle our furniture out the back door (the front door has a narrow entryway, making it impossible to move couches through it). After we got those down to the front of the driveway, we transported the rest of the stuff outside and started setting up. We had barely started setting up the tables when our first earlybird customer arrived. And from then on, we didn't have a time lapse of more than 5-10 minutes go by without customers for the rest of the day.
Here are some pictures of our first yard sale:

View from across the street


My sleepy husband :)


View from halfway up the driveway


View from the front porch


This picture is for those of you who made fun of my '70s avocado green couch. It was one of the first things sold. Even after it was sold, people offered me more money. So there. :P

We sold a LOT of stuff. I even conducted a sale entirely in Spanish, which was very exciting for me! At around 12:30pm, we made a sign that read "HALF OFF!" When we finally closed up at 2pm, we loaded everything we didn't sell into my mom's van to be hauled off to a thrift store that benefits Alzheimer's patients. We didn't want to bring anything back into the house if we could help it. We did end up bringing in the wedding dress, a box of clothes, and some Christmas ornaments that didn't sell.

Here's how much emptier our living room looks now:

View from dining room


View from front door


Look at all the empty floor space!

After counting all the stuff that we sold (including a furniture piece I sold my mom recently), we made more than $450! We promptly spent all of it the next day at Ikea & West Elm, but that's another post for another time.
Thanks for reading!

Finish Strong Challenge 2010 - Vol. 7 (Part 2)

Okay, I promised I would post this later in the week. (Happy Hump Day, by the way!) I know that I need to re-evaluate my plan for exercise, as I have been majorly slacking ever since I added more work hours to my schedule.
I know that I can't finish the P90X program by the end of 2010, and with the holiday travels coming up, it's impractical for me to try to get in 2-2.5 hours of workouts every day. I'm thankful that things like housecleaning and shopping give me some added activity. So here's the plan for the rest of my week. With the day off of school tomorrow, and most of Friday off, I'm hoping I can stick to this before my weigh in on Saturday.

Wednesday: Housecleaning (30 min), BBL Cardio Axe (30 min)
Thursday: Housecleaning (30 min), BBL Cardio Axe (30 min), BBL High & Tight (35 min)
Friday: Housecleaning (30 min), BBL Cardio Axe (30 min), BBL Bum Bum (35 min)

I will post next week's plan with my Vol. 8 update!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Finish Strong Challenge 2010 - Vol. 7

This week, I'm sorry to say that I gained 1 lb. I can't say that I didn't expect it. I know that it's my usual pattern, and that I DID slack this week, but I hate seeing the number going in the wrong direction. I don't know what my problem is, but this is my typical pattern. I'll have a fantastic two or three weeks, and then I'll have a week where I do nothing but slack (when it comes to eating and exercise - I definitely keep busy with my two jobs & full-time school!).

I think I need to recommit to my Finish Strong Challenge. There are only 7 more weeks left in this year (when did THAT happen?!). I know I'm not going to finish P90X before the end of the year, but that doesn't mean I can't exercise in other ways! I will do Jillian Michaels' 30 Day Shred today sometime, even if I have to fit it in after my night class tonight.

I will take a serious look at my eating and exercise plan for the next 7 weeks and post a "part 2" of this volume 7. I love the accountability I've set up for myself on here - it definitely does force me to be honest with myself.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Dining Room Reno Part 3: How to Make a Teapot Lamp

A few weekends ago, I was looking through the Anthropologie website and stumbled upon this amazing lamp:

It was love at first sight. But for $200, I wasn't willing to pay the price. Instead, I decided it would be a fun DIY project to make a lamp like this to go in our new dining room.

First, I hit up a local thrift store to score some amazing low-cost dishes to fashion into this vintage-inspired lamp. I decided I didn't want all white dishes. These pretty blue and white ones were perfect. A few bucks later, I came home and washed my new dishes.


Then, what you need to do is figure out how you want your lamp to look. It's a good idea to get something heavier for the bottom so that the lamp will be stable. I looked for a small mixing bowl, but I found a sturdy candy dish instead. I also found two cup-and-saucer sets, a little espresso cup in case I wanted to do the finial detail on top of the shade (I decided later not to), and a beautiful blue teapot with no lid. Once I arranged my dishes, I started gluing them together. You will want to leave out the dish at the top to work with separately.


Once my dishes were secure, I left them alone for a while before moving on to the next step. I know Krazy glue bonds instantly, but I wanted to be sure it would be sturdy.

Next, I started working on the top part of the lamp. As I said before, I left the top mug off the glued tower of dishes, er, lamp base. I wanted it to be easy to work with, without the possibility of ruining the base. I nabbed one of these from Amazon:

It's a wine bottle lamp kit (hence the cork). I didn't want to worry about wiring the lamp myself. This way, all of the cords were already connected. I screwed in a light bulb and plugged it in before I started working with it. I wanted to make sure my lamp would work!

Here are the tools you need for the next step:

That's a tub of Crayola air-dry craft clay and another bottle of Krazy glue (if you're like me and overkill on gluing just to make sure it will stick, you will need two of these). I filled the top mug with the clay and set the lamp kit very close to the top. Then I added more clay in on the sides to secure it. After that, I let it dry for about two days. The clay is still somewhat flexible, so I would give it at least a week to dry before using your lamp. After your clay is dry enough to satisfy you, glue your mug onto the top of your lamp base. Here's what that step looks like:


This is where I decided I really didn't need a teacup finial on top. The price difference between a lamp shade that fits around the socket and one that would need a lamp harp and finial was about $15. Since I'm cheap and I didn't really want to pay even an extra $15, I decided to go with a small lampshade from Target. I put the lamp shade around the socket and plugged in a light bulb. Here's the view from the top of the lamp:



Here's the price breakdown:
Thrift store dishes = $12.50
2 bottles of Krazy Craft Glue = $4.94
1 2.5-lb tub of Crayola air-dry craft clay = $4.99
cork lamp kit from Amazon = $8.97
lamp shade from Target = $7.99
Total project cost = $39.39

Not bad for a DIY of a designer lamp, especially when you consider the original $200 price tag!

Here's the final product:


Not a bad replica, eh?

Have you ever attempted to make a lamp? What's your best DIY of a designer good?