Monday, November 26, 2012

I Quit!

This is the story of how I gave up what I swore I'd never give up.

Ode to Coffee

Oh, how I have loved you for decades my sweet and creamy friend!

When I was a child my parents spooned you into tiny plastic coffee creamer cups so my siblings and I could enjoy miniature cups of coffee. I felt special, included, and grown-up like Mom and Dad. It was a rite of passage.

When I was in college and frequently pulled all-nighters to study, you were the drink that kept me going. You didn't mind that my friends and I spent more time socializing than actually memorizing information.

I've spend thousands of dollars over the years perfecting you. I even received an espresso machine from my parents for my wedding gift.

When my mom died you were there for me like a liquid hug reminding me of all the times I'd seen my parents enjoy you.

How excited I have been every year when Starbucks rings in the holiday season with their Red Cups!

When I had three children under the age of two and couldn't remember what week, let alone day it was, you were there giving me energy to make it through another day or night.

I've fought hard to keep you in my life even when money was very tight. When I chose to become fit and healthy I threw out the cookies, ice cream, chips, processed foods, fried foods, and pop, but refused to let you go. I held tightly to you even though you made me dehydrated and made my workouts that much harder. I knew that I could do anything, make it through any day, complete any task, keep any diet or exercise regimen as long as I had you. I'd NEVER give you up! I placed you on a throne and called you sacred.


I realized you were my god. I truly, sincerely loved you, Coffee. I couldn't wouldn't make it through one day without you. I started going to Starbucks twice a day and longed for a third trip. If I didn't drink you by 10 AM, I felt nauseated by a horrible headache. Hundreds of times I've made all three of my little girls climb out of the car, walk into Starbucks, climb back in the car, and buckle their car seats, over and over and over and over rain, snow, sleet, or shine just so I could have my coffee.

You are not my god. You should not be my comforter, my reward, my coping mechanism, my strength to make it through the day. I should not depend on you or long for you throughout the day. I should not be having an affair with you.

And so I have decided...

I am not a victim. I can and will choose to stop being addicted to you.


I have gone ten days now without any coffee and couldn't be happier. Detox was no fun. I did have terrible headaches off and on for six days. I spent the first Thanksgiving I can remember without a cup of coffee in hand. Now I just drive down the street right past Starbucks without it calling my name. The first several days I was very tired without coffee but my body regulated itself. Now my energy level stays fairly consistent all day long. My appetite has decreased too since I don't have the cream and sugar spiking my blood sugar levels. I do find myself wanting to go to bed earlier at night which is a great thing.

Erica McMullen, my fitness boot camp trainer, is always asking our group, "Why are you here? Why are you doing this?" I had an epiphany that it was crazy to get up at 4:45 AM for boot camp three times a week "to take care of my body and improve my health" then go mess my system up with sugary, creamy coffee twice a day. No more! Once I decided in my heart that I was ready to quit coffee, I shared that decision with some members of F.I.T. Boot Camp. I did this to hold myself accountable to them. Knowing someone was bound to ask me if I'd had any coffee forced me to stay committed when the going got tough.
I know most people do not have the addiction problem with coffee that I do. Most people use it correctly. A cup of java can play a helpful role in giving one energy for a workout or the ability to drop some water weight. I am by no means suggesting others should also quit coffee. My husband still drinks it every day and it's not a temptation for me because I already decided I'm not drinking coffee -- period. I finally got to the point where I was able to give up what I swore I'd never give up and I gained confidence by following through with a goal I set out to reach. I've gained back the time I used to spend driving to and from the coffee shop twice a day. I've kept the money I would have spent on my drinks and can use it toward other things.

I don't feel deprived.

                               I feel free.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Lululemon Exercise Pants $3.99 -- Say What!?!


I spent an hour last night and another hour today bidding on various exercise clothes on ebay. I go to boot camp three days a week and try to run one or two days a week so I need lots of exercise clothes. Unfortunately, I kept getting outbid on things at the last second. But that's okay with me because...

My weekly trip to the thrift store today turned up this pair of NEW Lululemon belted exercise pants --for $3.99! I seriously just about freaked when I saw they were my size! Even if they weren't my size I would have bought them just to turn around and sell them for some serious cash on ebay. Okay, that's not true. I would have just kept them in my closet so I could see that I bought $145 exercise pants for $3.99. Since they do fit I'll be wearing these babies often. They are so comfy.

My New Lululemon Pants

These are brand spankin' new pants, People!

Another pair of these same exact pants are selling on Ebay today: Starting big $110 or Buy it Now $130 + $15 for shipping!

Someone else's Ebay posting and picture. Their picture quality is way better than mine. I'm over it.

 Often I find great deals on less expensive brands, like GAP. Last week I bought this GAP fully lined, side-zip, herringbone wool pleated skirt. Because it had the week's 50% off number on the tag, I only paid $1.98 for it. It's perfect for fall.

Snub your nose at me and my thrift stores if you want. I don't care. I'll be happy to keep dressing cute and saving thousands of dollars a year on my high quality thrift store finds. It's the only way (for now) I could afford to wear such lovely brands like Saks Fifth Avenue and Lululemon. I have many other things to do with the money I save.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Lentil, Sausage, and Bean Soup

Most of the time my three girls tend to be pretty picky eaters, and so I can count on one hand the number of meals all five members of our family like to eat. Today I decided to let my three-year-old twins, Piper and Riley, create their own recipe for dinner. I took them to Target with the instructions to pick ingredients they would like to eat in a soup. What they created turned out to be delicious!

Lentil, Sausage, and Bean Soup

8 oz. dry lentils (cook according to directions)
32 oz. chicken broth (we use fat free, 33% less sodium)
2 large carrots, shredded
1 can black beans (drained and rinsed)
1 can light red kidney beans (drained and rinsed)
1 pound ground turkey sausage
1 Tablespoon processed garlic

In large pot, brown turkey sausage with shredded carrots and garlic. In another pot, cook lentils according to directions. When sausage is thoroughly cooked, add all of the ingredients, including the cooked lentils, to the pot. Stir and simmer until ready to eat.

We topped off our soup with Parmesan cheese and enjoyed it with hearty artisan fresh-baked bread.

I snagged this picture off google images because it looks somewhat similar to our soup and I'm taking the lazy way out.

I think I'll let the girls be in charge of our menu from now on!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Jennifer's Berry & Green Protein Shake

This is the recipe I use for my daily protein shake. I know it's good for my body and I enjoy drinking it. I often bring the ingredients and my blender with me even when I travel.

3/4 C. Water
3/4 C. Crushed Ice
3/4 C. Almond Milk - (Silk brand unsweetened 30 calories per cup, found at Target) - 23 calories
1/3 frozen banana - 25 calories
1/2 C. Mixed Berries (I use Target's Market Pantry Frozen Triple Berry Blend) - 40 calories
1 large handful of fresh spinach, collard greens, or kale - 5 calories
2 teaspoons Flax Meal- 40 calories (aka "ground flaxseed meal" – grocery baking aisle)
2 teaspoons Smucker’s Natural Peanut Butter - 66 calories
1 scoop Designer Whey Protein French Vanilla – 100 calories

Put all the ingredients in a blender, berries last, and blend. Drink right away. This makes a very large shake. I try to talk one of my kids into drinking some of it. It will NOT be good to save for later.

299 calories

This shake has it all -- greens, berries, fiber, protein, good carbs, and good fat. I use Smucker’s Natural Peanut Butter because it’s the only one I can find with only peanuts and salt for the ingredients. I buy it at Target or Reasor’s. Other peanut butters include oils, like palm oil, that I don’t want. I try to keep ingredients as natural and as raw/unprocessed as possible. I use Designer Whey protein because it is one of the “cleanest” protein powders available in that it doesn’t have harmful chemicals many cheaper products have. The French Vanilla tastes great. I bought it at Akins for years, but just found a 4 lb. container on Amazon for $49 (which is only $8 more than Akin’s 2 lb. container). I buy a large container of organic baby spinach at Sam’s. It’s so much cheaper than buying spinach at the grocery store.

There you go. I drink this shake every single day and just switch up which fresh greens I use (spinach, kale, or collard greens). I’ll be honest, the kale is horrible, but the spinach and collard greens are great.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Thrift Store Steals

These are the fabulous finds I purchased at a local thrift store today.

Saks Fifth Avenue gorgeous wool pants perfect for fall. They appear to be brand new. - $4.99.

Banana Republic Jeans -- on sale due to the weekly tag number - $3.50

Large Gilded Mirror - $12 (It still needs to be dusted and I'm not sure where I'll actually hang it.)

Girl's White Ballet Costume - $5 (I picked up the blue dress at a consignment store last week for free because I traded my "new" cosigned clothes for store credit.)

I enjoy dressing myself and family in quality clothing and take full advantage of local thrift stores and consignment stores to do so. We save so much money and buy mostly brand new items. Have you visited your local thrift store lately? What is your best find yet?

Dining Room Transformed with New Curtains

Ten years ago I sewed these cafe curtains for our breakfast nook area. Although I liked the rust-colored fabric, it always felt heavy and dark in this space.

We lived with those curtains for many years even though they were too short. I ended up adding a complimentary fabric to the bottom so they would be the proper length. I also replaced the glass table with a larger wooden table and recovered the chairs with matching fabric.

After having these curtains for so long I was ready for a change. I wanted the breakfast nook to look brighter, lighter, and more updated. I was looking for something less traditional but still keeping within my original color scheme.

While looking at hundreds of fabrics at Joann's it was actually my five-year-old, Sophie, who picked out the fabric for our new curtains.

This fabric is heavy-duty indoor/outdoor fabric which will not fade. It was easy to work with too. For those reasons I decided not to bother lining them. I sewed four simple panels and used rings with clips to attach them to new curtain rods. The curtains rods were made from electrical conduit (really cheap and very sturdy) from Lowe's. My husband sprayed painted the rods and cheap unfinished wooden finials a gorgeous metallic bronze color. Our traditional, dark, and heavy breakfast nook was transformed into this:

The new curtains on the left and the old cafe curtains on the right

I love them! Our space seems so much brighter, lighter and more modern.



Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Girls' Bathroom Upgrade

While perusing the aisles at Bed Bath and Beyond, I fell in love with this fabric shower curtain by Amy Butler in "Sari Bloom". It was discontinued (though you can still buy it from Amazon and Ebay), and was on sale. By using a coupon, I ended up only paying about $10 for it. The shower curtain provided the color scheme for the girls' bathroom.

Judd framed out the builder's grade plain mirror and painted it with Benjamin Moore paint in Dove White.

The bathroom used to have just a standard, plain, chrome-colored towel bar similar to this:

We wanted to make the bathroom user friendly for the girls, so Judd built them a shelf with towel hooks. He also painted it Dove White. Then, I purchased some picture frames from Target and dry brush painted them with Bubble Gum pink acrylic paint. The framed photos identify whose towel is whose.We picked up some pinkish-red towel sets from Target in Lollipop Red.

Not pictured, is the plush blue bath rug I picked up at JC Penny's home store several months ago which matches the blue in the shower curtain.

Their bathroom ended up looking like this:

I really need to buy a new camera. This looks like the towels clash with the curtains, but they don't. Hopefully, you get the general idea. Easy changes upgraded and personalized what once was a boring standard bathroom.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Entryway Coat Rack and Storage Bench

There are many things I love about my home, but there had been a bare space in the entryway I never did anything with until now. I had been pining over this Pinterest pin from a creative mom over at I thought her bathroom towel rack shelf would make a great coat rack in my entryway.

I decided to have my hubby make the coat rack shelf with crown molding for me because I couldn't find anything with the right dimensions online or in stores. I wanted the coat rack to be substantial and to be hung above a 3-drawer storage bench. I purchased this bench when it was on sale at Target.

I recovered the plain cushion with ultra soft cheetah fabric found at Hobby Lobby.

Judd built the coat rack using this tutorial, but altered the dimensions for a custom fit for our space. Next, we primed and painted the coat rack shelf with the same products we used on our kitchen island (shared in my post here) It's a deep, rich, rusty-red color. It only appears bright in this picture because I used the flash on my old camera. In reality, the color is more of a brown-red.

We attached these coat and hat hooks from Home Depot, and our entryway space ended up looking like this:

The girls each have their own drawer in which to keep their shoes. They feel a sense of pride in having this responsibility and Judd and I enjoy fewer tripping hazards left on the floor.

Bye-bye empty space; hello stylish organization.

Friday, July 20, 2012

DIY Tooth Fairy Pillow (Tutorial)

Sophie starts Kindergarten this fall. When we toured the classrooms at Kindergarten Roundup earlier this spring I noticed a chart listing all the teeth various students lost during their Kindergarten school year. That poster brought up all sorts of questions from Sophie. Will it hurt? Who is the Tooth Fairy? Why does she want teeth? Does she pull my teeth? Can she give me prizes instead of money? (The Tooth Fairy will be more than happy to give prizes instead of money).

When I was a child my sister and I both had special Tooth Fairy pillows. After realizing I could make at least three pillows (one for each of my girls) for less than the price of purchasing one pillow from Etsy or ebay, I went into DIY mode.

I let Sophie choose the fabric. I really like the print she chose for the main pillow portion. I personally would have chosen a different print for the pocket, but Sophie loved these two prints together. My only "rule" was that she could NOT pick any licensed fabric (e.g., Disney, Hello Kitty, etc.). I'm not a fan of highly commercialized cartoon images and feel prints and solids create a boutique quality product.

Items Needed:
  • Two 6” x 6” squares of fabric for pillow
  • One 4” x 5” contrasting fabric for pocket
  • 27” of 5/8” grosgrain ribbon (12” for handle and 15” for bow embellishment.)
  • Initial badge pin (Hobby Lobby $.99) 
  • Poly-fil or pillow stuffing of your choice

For the pocket, fold over all four edges, WRONG sides together 1/2" and sew.

Pin the WRONG side of pocket to the center of the RIGHT side of one pillow square (so both the pillow square and pocket are RIGHT side facing you). Sew sides and bottom of pocket to pillow square.

Pin 12” of grosgrain ribbon on the RIGHT side of the same pillow square at the 1” and 5” locations. Make sure your ribbon handle is pinned DOWN from the top edge looping down toward the pocket. Make sure your pins are lower than your seam allowance so you can remove them once you turn your pillow right side out.

Sew the pillow fabric RIGHT sides together leaving a small opening to turn the fabric right side out. Remove pins which held the ribbon in place.

Stuff the pillow with poly-fil, fabric scraps, recycled plastic sacks, or whatever you wish to use as your stuffing. Sophie enjoyed getting to do this part. Hand-sew opening closed.

Add the initial badge pin to the pocket and hand-sew a bow (made from 15” of 5/8” grosgrain ribbon) onto the pillow at a diagonal.

The back looks like this...

Sophie, Piper, and Riley love the way their Tooth Fairy pillows turned out. It was a fun and quick little project in which they could participate. Now I better let the Tooth Fairy know she needs to stock up on prizes rather than money for the teeth in this household.