Saturday, May 30, 2009

Lucky Finds

Wow, we really lucked out today at the model home sales. We went to just one subdivision, but they had three separate model homes fully furnished. We got there about an hour after the sale started, and they were getting wiped out pretty quickly. We've been to them before, and they are like yard sales- cars lined up and down the street, and early birds getting all the good stuff! Plus the weather was simply spectacular this morning, sunny and not quite 80 yet, and no humidity whatsoever- so people were happy to be out and about today. The first house we went to, they had almost nothing left, even most of the furniture was gone. We thought, crap, we got here too late. We could see people loading up their cars with accessories, and their trucks with furniture. There were even pickups carrying mattresses! Everything goes in these sales.

We went to the second model home and walked in, nothing much there either. People were crawling all over these houses, snatching up everything it seemed. In the second house there was even a guy removing the kitchen curtains for a buyer. So we trudged down to the third and final model home, and we found the deals we were looking for. I was specifically looking for artwork featuring palm trees. Our sun room, which includes most of our vacation souvenirs from the tropical islands, is decorated with almost exclusively palm trees. I needed something to go on the last empty wall in the room. As luck would have it, at the last house we stumbled upon the pieces below. Nothing outstanding about them, although they certainly were close enough to palm trees. The pieces are big, about three feet by three feet. Heavy frames, pretty good quality. They were $40 for the pair, so we decided to get them. When we got home, we turned them over and found the original price of $320 for the pair. Pretty good deal with those.

James went upstairs in the house to look around, and he called me up there. He found a few pieces that he liked, but I didn't care much for (too funky), so I passed on them. In the hallway, leaning against the wall, we found the item below. It's a nice nature scene, which is what I like- I don't care for abstract or modern pieces at all. We weren't sure where we would put this piece, and with its price tag of $40 we had to think about it for awhile. After hemming and hawing, we decided to get it. It's a rather large piece as well, about 3 feet by 4 feet, and we put it in our informal dining room. We looked on the back and although there was no price on it, there was an envelope attached with the certificate of authenticity. I could see on the front there was an original signature by the artist, a giclee and #6 out of 600. We looked the artist up online, and found his work in a few galleries. We didn't find this particular piece, but we found very similar giclee prints of his work, and framed nearly identical. The price? $650!! Not sure what they paid for it originally there at the model home, but for our $40, I feel quite satisfied that we got a pretty good deal.

Seems to me for the day, we got about $1000 worth of art for $80!! I love a great bargain!

As I mentioned before, the model home sales are really just something fun for us to do. It was a long drive, three counties over, but we had a fun day that included lunch out (we went to a Mexican restaurant but I only had a salad, then shared one dessert with the hubby) and a lot of good conversation. It gave us a chance to drive through a few cute little towns along the way, see some of the sights in our new state, and gave us a project of hanging them when we came home.

By the way, James and I both wanted to mention that all of our artwork, including larger and heavier pieces than the ones shown, were all hung using the Hercules Hook- those absolutely stupid looking fishing hook hangers sold on TV by scary, shouting spokesman Billy Mays. Yes, folks, they really do work and they really are as easy to use as they make them out to be on the commercial. Who knew??

If six months from now, everything comes crashing down, I will be sure to blog about that!

More Deals

Hello all, no whining from me today I promise. Today looks to be much better, the monthly blues are subsiding. I spent my pity party in bed yesterday, snuggled in with the kitties and popcorn and mindlessly watching hours of WeTV- which included lots of old 48 Hours episodes, and getting teary-eyed over Mystic Pizza (wow, 1988!!- wasn't Vincent D'Onofrio such a fox back then- okay, he still is, just a more mature, silver-haired fox, but still luscious).

After a few days in the 70's, today's weather is bright and in the low 80's. James and I are getting ready to leave for awhile, to run a few household errands. We're also headed over to a new subdivision in a nearby town. I spoke about getting deals at auctions and outlet stores, but another place for you to find great deals on home furnishings is model home sales, which is where we're headed. We signed up on an email list with our developer, and now every time they sell off the furnishings out of model homes in their subdivisions, we get an email letting us know. We've been to a few already, and wow did I see some beautiful dining room sets and leather living room furniture. We are keeping an eye out for a hutch or buffet for our informal dining room, something we can use to display items as well as store kitchenware. We have a big blank white wall, and what better way to fill it than with a piece of furniture we bought for a rock bottom price! You know, other than the little bit of furniture my hubby bought when he moved to his apartment, I don't think we've ever paid full retail price for anything in our home!! One day I will go around and take photos and post where we got everything for so cheap!

I don't know about the area where you live, but stop by the office of the model home in a newer subdivision, and sign up. Most developers do lots and lots of subdivisions, I know ours has subdivisions in several states, including all over Georgia. As the neighborhoods get finished and the houses sold up, the model homes/offices close- as it did in our neighborhood. Our developer is selling off the model furniture in all of their offices as they close. It's worth checking out. Even if we don't buy anything, which we usually don't, it's still a fun drive with the husband and an afternoon spent together. That is priceless for me!!

Everyone have a great Saturday!!

(photo of my last "model home" bargain- the painting had the original store price tag on the back for $80- I got it for ten bucks!!)

Friday, May 29, 2009

Bummer Morning

Ugh, I know Friday is supposed to be a happy day, but mine has already been crummy. One of those days where I just want to pull the covers back over my head and feel sorry for myself. Oh wait, I did that, and it didn't help.

As I mentioned before my hubby is working funky hours this week, so our internal clocks and our sleep patterns have been really off-kilter. This morning when my alarm clock went off, I crawled out of bed to get ready to go to my Weight Watchers meeting. I was looking forward to weigh-in because the scale at home showed at least a 1-2 pound loss for the week. I always love going to my meetings when I can walk in assured of a good weigh-in. But yesterday afternoon my monthly friend came to visit, and this morning I was having cramps so bad that I simply wilted in the shower. That was as far as I made it, and still in my robe with my w
et hair wrapped in a towel, I went back to bed. I admit, when cramps come knocking on my door, I am a wuss. I can deal with just about anything else, but I have always always been a pansy about dealing with that. (I can say these things even though my dad reads my blog- I lived with my folks until I was 25, so this is not news to him.)

I woke up a few hours later when my husband's cell phone rang, and it was the lady who is taking care of selling our old house, with a few questions. My husband was surprised to find me still in bed, I was supposed to be gone already. As he showered, I went through our normal morning routine as best as I could. Coffee, oatmeal for him, cereal for me. As soon as I picked up the oatmeal canister from the pantry shelf it slipped through my grasp and fell to the
floor. It didn't really surprise me, I get what I call the "PMS dropsy" disease every month. I had oatmeal all over the kitchen and even out into the hallway. The cats nosed around for awhile, but realized it was nothing they could eat or play with, so they went on their way. As I was vacuuming, I was also trying to make the coffee and watch his oatmeal cooking on the stove. To make a long story short, the oatmeal was way too runny and the coffee was way too bitter and strong. It is amazing to me how pain can distract someone from something as simple as making breakfast.

Wow, PS- forgot to mention the first time, I spilled my husband's coffee all over the kitchen counter and all over the dining room table! How did I forget that part?!

So that's where I'm at this morning, the husband is gone, I'm here and the couch is calling my name. I normally do not spend the day on the couch unless I am sick, but today I am admitting defeat and calling this a "sick day" for me. If I touch anything else, I'm liable to break it.
In fact, I should probably slowly move away from the computer with my hands up.

Here's a photo of General from yesterday, looking out the bathroom window. I don't really have a photo appropriate for a "PMS symptoms" post. So, enjoy this one instead. (I should have grabbed my camera when I spilled the oatmeal, but I wasn't thinking that fast.)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Shopping Smart- But Fun!

It is no secret that James and I like nice quality things in our home. But, we are not fools about it- we do not pay full price and we've learned to shop the deals! Some of our best finds have come from auctions and estate sales- back in SC we used to go to them all the time. We also loved to go to warehouse-type discount retail outlets- including this place where we've shopped at for years and found a lot of great deals. This photo for me represents a few of our better finds. This is my entryway, and these are all things we brought from the old house.

The piece below we bought at an auction house, which is the best one we've ever found. We could spend an entire day there, and I can say without hesitation those were great times we had together, even if we never bought anything. Anyhow, the piece below was made by a local NC artist, who I'd never heard of but was quite famous. I just knew I loved the piece. I know metal wall sculptures are so 70's, but I didn't care. This piece of art is completely metal- bronze and copper I think- and everything was handmade by the artist. This photo does not do it justice. After we bought this piece, we did research about the artist and his work, and found very similar pieces to the one we bought. We learned that we got this one for a fraction of what they originally cost. Even better, the artist is retired now and very reclusive, so I don't think I will see anything of his anytime soon.

The piece of pottery below is another item we bought at the same auction house. It's certainly not an antique, but I do believe it was handmade. Instead of a "Made In Wherever" sticker on the bottom, there are instead hand-carved initials. I'm assuming by the potter. It may not be completely handmade, it may have been created from using clay slip and a mold, but I don't know. I just know it was another one of those "I love it" items. I do not collect Asian-inspired pieces at all, but I liked this piece, perhaps because of my pottery background. Since I don't know anything about it, I can't tell you of it's value, but I know I paid less for it than I would have for a similar item at Pier One or World Market.

The furniture below came from the outlet store mentioned at the beginning. We've bought a lot of furniture from them over the years, and artwork too, but this piece I just love. They were literally just unloading it from the truck that day when we found it. We were looking for something to fit into the entryway at the old house, and this was perfect. It's got a lot of storage, and I love the granite top and the hand-painted design. We were told it was leftover from Ashley Furniture's inventory of things that hadn't sold, and they were bringing in all new items so had to get rid of "last year's" stuff. We got this piece for 1/4th of what it cost at the original store. This outlet furniture store does not sell "damaged and dented" items- everything in the store is new and came from other larger retail chains who were changing out inventory and had things that didn't sell. I won't say how much we paid for this, but I can tell you I've seen furniture in Target that cost more!

And finally, I saved the best for last. This rug is from the old house- the previous owner left it for us when we bought her house. I say it was free, James says we had to buy the house to get it. So, however you look at it. We just liked it, and I don't know anything about rugs- again, we've bought all our rugs as discount outlet stores. So recently someone who does know about rugs came to our house and looked at it. He said it was a hand-knotted rug from Turkey, and worth about $1,000. Yikes! (I thought about that this morning when I was cleaning up a pile of thrown-up cat food on it.) I said maybe I should take it away from the front door, but he said no, it's made for heavy use and can withstand it. He said it should last us another 30-40 years. I guess that means we will be taking it with us the next time we move for sure!

Those are just a few of our "cheap" finds. I love estate sales, auctions, flea markets, outlet stores, consignment shops, antique stores, you name it. Right now my favorite piece in the house is the antique bookcase that belonged to James' great-grandmother. I have absolutely NO knowledge about furniture or antiques or values, I just know what I love when I see it, and James can love the discounted price tag when he sees it!!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Product Endorsement!!!

Yes it's the Magic Bullet!!! I know you've all seen the infomercials on TV for this goofy looking thing. I watch those too and normally I make fun of them just like most of you probably do. But this is one infomercial gadget that really does live up to all the hype (so does my GT Express 101, but that's for another story). James got the Magic Bullet back when it first came out, in his bachelor days while dating me and living in an apartment. He'd just sold his house, and he also sold most of the stuff that was in it because he went from a two-story home to a two-bedroom apartment. Anyhow, this was one of the purchases made for his new parred-down lifestyle. I laughed hysterically when he got one (okay, but wait, he ordered now and got a second one free for just the shipping & handling charges and gave that to his mom). He made everything with this contraption, even tuna salad!

It took me a long time to warm up to the Magic Bullet, in fact it took a few years. But before I knew it I was using it to make my own yogurt and fruit smoothies, as well as homemade versions of a frappuccino and iced coffees. And yes, I even started to buy whole bean coffee and ground it myself, which is what I used it for today (photo above). I never realized that yes, freshly ground coffee really does taste better. I know they have coffee grinders and smoothie makers and juicers, etc. But so far the Magic Bullet has served us both well since 2005!

I am not an actor and I was not paid for this endorsement. Thank you.

A Place In The Shade

James is working different hours this week, so we've been able to get projects done during the day together. Today we had a fantastic day, not only did we "live green" today by making two trips to the recycling center to drop off items, but we did a lot of work outside. James has been working really diligently around the yard to make it look beautiful. It was a weed-choked and red-mud covered patch when we bought the house, not even flowers in the flower beds. He's been out there already this year applying weed and feed to the yard, and now we've signed up with a service that will come out several times a year and give our yard that extra special touch- they promise a lush, green, weed-free yard! We are looking forward to having that "golf course" look soon.

While I bought a few perennials and a rosebush at Lowe's this week for the front flower beds, I also bought a few vegetable plants. Two tomato plants, two green pepper plants, a jalapeno plant, and a cayenne pepper plant. Me? I don't like peppers, but James loves them and I thought they sounded easy to grow. I had big giant planters leftover from my previous, previous home so I figured they would do the trick. The photo above is the final stage of the project James has been working on for a few days. This is the area under our deck, and where the doors to our basement come out.

It was a weedy, muddy area that was, well, useless and I was guilty of leaving junk out there. James tirelessly dragged bag after bag of rock down the hill and, after pinning down some landscape fabric to keep those weeds in check, he spread the rock out. I put my veggie plants out there, we found some of our old lawn furniture gathering dust and voila. Now we have a nice little sitting area. I wish I had a "before" picture to show you how bad it looked in that area. This was totally James' idea and I think he did a great job. We plan to decorate it a little more, maybe a wind chime or spinners, maybe even some potted flowers.

We did do a few projects inside the house as well. James patiently removed the remaining plastic covers from the formal dining room chairs we bought almost three years ago!! He had to unscrew and remove each seat cushion on all eight chairs to do this, so you can see why I put it off! Most of all, we had a wonder
ful afternoon together of working side by side and enjoying the rare weekday lunch at home with each other. James had sushi (spicy tuna), and I had a small salad of marinated artichoke hearts and marinated whole mushrooms, with a little goat cheese on top. Yummy!! To think I used to heat up a frozen diet dinner in the microwave, blah.

We'll have the afternoon together again tomorrow, so we are already thinking up projects we can get accomplished. It is amazing to me how much my husband motivates me and inspires me!!

(James working on the dining room chairs- thank you honey!)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Good News!

Well here is another beautiful sunset photo from me, this was tonight's evening colors. It was perfect timing, we were just getting home and as we pulled into the driveway, I hopped out of the car and ran down towards the street to snap the shot. Luckily I had my camera in my purse. I guess you could say tonight we had dinner and a show!

We were out celebrating our- hopefully- good news. As far as we can tell, we've got our house sold finally! We got an offer on it yesterday, so as soon as all the paperwork is signed, sealed, and delivered, we can rest easy and get this two ton weight off our shoulders. I am still holding my breath, because I've known of buyers to back out at the very last second, so until we actually go to closing, it's not a done deal. Apparently these folks really like the house and are anxious to move on in!!

In other news, please visit the new blog from my dear friend Dawn. We've known each other since, wow, 1986!! We worked together for several years, and since I moved away from Florida, we've written to each other regularly. Yes, real letters, the type you put in an envelope and stuff in your mailbox with a stamp on it!! Dawn is the one who introduced me to Catster, she and her hubby are wonderful animal lovers. Dawn is very creative and clever and talented, so I'm looking forward to keeping up on her blog, seeing her photos, etc. Please give her a big hello.

That's all for me tonight. I will update on the house as soon as I know definitely that it is 100% sold!!! Continue to keep your fingers crossed for us.

Memorial Day

I have not been on my blog lately, but I am still trying to catch up on reading everyone's blogs. I follow so many new ones now, and they are all great. Whenever I start following a blog, I always go back to the very first post and start from there, so that I can "know" that person. If someone has been blogging about their life for two years, it's difficult to just jump right in on the current post and know what's been going on with them. New blogs take me a little time to get caught up on, but I eventually do!! Right now I'm reading Diet Coke and Zingers from the beginning. I enjoy reading the success stories of fellow Weight Watchers comrades.

As for us, we didn't do much this weekend that was blogworthy. We spent all of yesterday bringing stuff and boxes up from the basement so we could decorate our bookcases that James put together on Saturday. We've got a lot of family photos and books and whatnots that have still been in storage since we moved, as we didn't have places to put them. So we're working on it. James did a great job with his bookcases, and his office looks great. I am still slowly working on the ones in the living room.

We also took all of our artwork and walked around the house deciding where we wanted to hang everything, and James was kind enough to carry all the pieces and leave them where they are to go. This was supposed to be my duty, but I waffled so much on where I wanted everything to go that in the end I never made any decisions. Sometimes when James puts pressure on me I get a little aggravated at the time, but afterwards I am always thankful because it all finally gets done. Without him, I may not have ever made up my mind! Some days I need a little push in the right direction.

We did all of this while we patiently waited for the frequently rain-delayed Coca-Cola 600 to run. Very very disappointed in the outcome.

Anyhow, hope everyone had a great holiday weekend. I've got fun stuff like the grocery store and the dry cleaner awaiting me today. Right now I'm watching two male cowbirds trying to court a female out in our front yard. The males are certainly noisy and flapping around, but she seems to be going about her business casually. Ah, such is life with us gals.

I think we have our old house in South Carolina sold finally, I will update with details in the following days! Cross your fingers for us!!

Have a wonderful day!

(photo of James working on his office bookcases)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Stormy Weather

This is just a quick post to say good-morning, then I will be off doing miscellaneous other things for the day, which includes reading your blogs and getting caught up. I know you've come to expect me to post photos of our gorgeous sunsets and sunrises, but this was our afternoon sky yesterday. It was not night time, all that darkness comes from storm clouds. Yes, we got as much of a storm as you would expect by looking at this, but it blew threw quickly, then it was back to normal.

James is on a hike this afternoon with his friend Dave- one that's too long and too treacherous for me. Dave makes a great stand-in. It's cloudy here right now, and hopefully they are having a nice dry hike. James worked hard all day yesterday: he had to go to his "real" job for several hours, then came home and did a lot of yard work, and spent the rest of the day putting together a total of five bookcases (photos later), well into the night after I'd gone to bed. He deserves the day off.

In other news, I stepped on the scale this morning to show a 2.5 pound loss since Friday morning. What, me? Lose weight on the weekends?? I certainly ate plenty this weekend, but it was a lot of whole grains, beans, and lean meats. Proof for me once again that it really does work for me. I hope to stop harping on this subject soon, but I am still just so amazed.

Have a great Sunday afternoon, I will talk to you all later!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A Three Course Meal For Under 350 Calories?!

After spending the afternoon searching through a few magazines, I've found the first of my "new recipe for the week" ideas (see the post about my goals). It comes from one of my issues of Clean Eating, and after reading this article, I decided I couldn't pass up this opportunity to try it out. The menu is: Sancocho (a South American chicken soup), Dilled Salmon Roll-Ups, and Roasted Sweet Potato Fries. Basically, a nice three course meal. Now here is the fantastic part. The whole entire meal only has 343 calories! Yes, you read that correctly. All three items combined only have 343 calories, 10 grams of fat (only 1.5 grams saturated), and 7 grams of fiber. And for you fellow Weight Watchers out there, all of it together is only 7 points. I don't know about anyone else, but I used to eat icky, very unsatisfying Lean Cuisines that were more calories and points than the above meal.

My culinary skills are basic at best (Chef Ramsay would call me a lazy BLEEP BLEEP donkey and throw me out of Hell's Kitchen on the first episode), and usually when I get in the kitchen I make a
mess no matter what I'm cooking. But I think even I can make this meal- soup, sandwich, fries. And best of all, because it comes from the pages of Clean Eating, all of the ingredients are fresh, whole foods. Folks, if you like eating healthy and want to get away from processed, pre-packaged foods, I urge you to check out Clean Eating magazine. (Yes, I know I mention the magazine a lot, and no I am not being paid for this endorsement!) I see it on newsstands all the time, it's not hard to find, I got my first issue at a Books-A-Million. Okay, I am not going to preach about that anymore.

I will let you all know how it turns out, it will be for one night next week. I think I'm going to surprise my husband with it (if he doesn't read my blog anytime soon). It will be a nice change from my boring baked chicken breasts with green beans and brown rice.

(deep fried sweet potato fries- I know they taste better, but are they really better for you?)


Thursday night we attended a meeting of homeowners for our neighborhood, as we missed the last one back in March. There were a few dozen folks there, and what we thought would be a quick and congenial meet-and-greet turned out to be a two-hour affair that sometimes became loud and argumentative. (When voices got raised I asked James, "How soon can we leave?" and he answered, "What, and miss this show?") In retrospect, I'm glad we went because I learned several things that really opened my eyes about this new neighborhood, and most of it I wished I had known before we bought this house- it may have changed my mind.

We currently have 115 houses occupied, five empty due to death or someone moving, and 47 empty lots- two of which are across the street from us. I've always enjoyed the idea of the empty lots across from us, I get to look out at the woods every day and it's very peaceful and beautiful, filled with a great deal of birdsong and grazing deer and bunnies. I thought, well, when the market picks back up in a few years they will build houses over there and I'll have to put up with the construction noises, but I'll enjoy it while I can. Now I'm not so sure I should be so happy to have the lots there.

Our current HOA is run by the developer and a management group. They have a budget for the lawn maintenance at the front entrances, money to pay for the electricity for the streetlights, etc. Apparently that money is going to run out this fall, so they say, and no one is certain if the developer will cough up more money. And apparently the developer has "lost interest" in this neighborhood and in this area of Georgia (we bought the very last completed brand new house in the neighborhood). No one knows what the future holds for our HOA, or our neighborhood, and that's what the meeting was about- what should we do??

What was scary for me to hear was that the developer is two years in arrears on the taxes for the empty lots!! And if they don't pay them by the first of next year, it will be three years and by some kind of law, the county will take them and auction them off on the courthouse steps. Folks, I don't want to offend anyone with my next statement, so don't take it the wrong way. But what that means is that whoever buys those lots, whether an individual or another developer or the bank- they can come in and build whatever type of house they want- whatever style and whatever size and with whatever type of materials. The house can be completely out of whack with the rest of the neighborhood.

Our meeting was to make a decision based on three actions- do we let things stay the same, do we take over our own HOA, or do we set up an advisory board for now to meet with the developers and management company? It was two to one for the advisory board versus taking over the HOA. I raised my hand and asked, if we take over the HOA, can we put our own restrictions on what can be built on the empty lots (obviously that is my greatest concern)? I was told we would have to change the covenants and that would take some doing.

We pay yearly dues to our HOA, and that is fine, because I like the streetlights and I like our front entrances. But knowing that the "board of directors" are taking their salary from that money, and then leaving our maintenance budget dry, sort of ticks me off. I voted for the advisory board, and we had plenty of volunteers for it. I personally would like to see us take over our own HOA, but I understand the reasoning- no one in the neighborhood has any experience with running one. Our current HOA enforces stupid rules like no trash cans in the driveway (we got a nasty letter about that one), no bird baths in the front yard (!), that kind of crap that I personally think is petty.

So we will see how this develops over the coming months, and I guarantee that from now on we (or at least I) will be going to all of the homeowners meetings in the future.

(photo of the two empty lots across from us- sorry it wasn't sunny yesterday when I took the photos)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Here I Goals Again

No, that is not bad grammar, just me trying to be witty. I thought that since I had reached another milestone (I got my third FIVE POUND star this week at Weight Watchers), I wanted to make another list of weight-related goals for myself.

1. I would like to be under the 200 pound mark before we head to Florida next month. That's only a loss of 13 pounds in 4 1/2 weeks. I think that's achievable, if I work hard at it.

2. James and I have been talking about going here. Last year he wanted to go, but I was not in good enough shape. I would like to go there this fall, or early spring 2010.

3. I would also like to accomplish this. It's only 13 miles from our house, and it would help me overcome my previous failure that I mentioned in this post.

4. I want to try one new recipe a week from my Clean Eating magazines. I've got every issue since volume #1, and I've yet to cook anything out of them. If I'm going to spend the money on the subscription, I need to make use of it.

5. As I lose down to another, smaller size I will immediately get rid of all clothing items in the bigger size and donate them to charity. I will not keep them in my closet "in case" I gain weight again.

Those are the goals on my mind for this week. Hopefully as my efforts progress, I will have a few more to add to my lists.

(photo of my eye- sans makeup- as I was playing with the close up button on my camera last night)

Weigh In Friday

Today was my regular weigh in day at Weight Watchers (my meeting place- above), although I missed last week (the Lowe's delivery). I had a loss of 3.6 for the two weeks, which makes me happy. To me, it signifies that our lifestyle change to eating whole foods is working for us. I know I feel so much better now, I told my meeting leader this morning that when I was eating a lot of sugar and highly-processed foods I was always hungry, always tired. I find I am less so of both these days. I am rarely hungry, even though I am eating less food. I know that doesn't make sense, but my leader explained that since whole foods have more nutrition and usually more fiber (WW calls them "filling foods"), and since they process differently inside our bodies, that is probably why I'm never hungry these days.

I'm not eating anything off the wall, or anything special. Breakfast is a high fiber cereal with either skim or light soy milk. Lunch is usually a small salad, or half of a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread (I used to eat a whole sandwich but have found that half a sandwich satisfies me now). Snacks are fresh fruit, or fat free yogurt (the regular kind, not the crazy flavors). Dinner is a large salad, or roasted fresh veggies with a whole grain like quinoa or wild rice, or boneless skinless chicken breast and a side dish of veggies or grains. That's it, nothing more complicated, and I buy everything I need right there in the grocery store. Another member today asked me if I still have cravings for cookies or chips, and I told her truthfully and without hesitation: No!

Eating whole foods is working for us, and we're going to continue to stick with it.

This is a photo of my leader Marci that hangs on the wall at our meeting place, along with other inspirational members. She is amazing and energetic and very funny. She always lets everyone speak up when they want to, even if it makes the meeting run late. She always has an answer for every question. She shares personal stories, recipes, ideas. Marci's very encouraging, whether it's about exercise or trying new foods (I'm going to try millet because of her- I thought it was just bird seed, I didn't know people could eat it!). I've found that if I go early before everyone else starts coming, she will come sit beside me and ask how my week was, and she really listens, even to non-weight-related stories. She knows my name when I walk through the front door. Every week she has us write down our name and phone number, and put them into a bag, and she gives away prizes (I've yet to win, but I keep trying). She is one of the reasons I keep on going back week after week!

And yes, I know there is a pizza place right beside where we meet, but thankfully I go at 9:30 in the morning, so it's not open!!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Don't Send This Stuff To Me!!

Folks, the photo above is why over half of all Americans are obese. This is what came in my weekly flier in the mail, all of this, at one time. Coupons for: Papa John's, Pizza Hut, Arby's, Wendy's, Domino's, Church's, Little Caesars, and Hardees. No coupons for organic veggies at the whole foods market, no coupons for the gym or the YMCA, no coupons for new sneakers for walking on the treadmill, no coupons for my high blood pressure or acid reflux medication. It seems that the average consumer and family is faced with these decisions every day- pay $5 for a container of organic spring mix, or buy one get one free chicken biscuits, or order a bag to go from the $1 menu, or even worse, the dreaded 5 for $5 deal at Arby's. With the economy right now, it would seem that the logical choice would be to grab the cheapest meal deal out there. But we all know that by doing that, there is a potentially greater cost in the long run. Your weight, your health, even a shorter lifespan. Sure, I love a pizza just as much as the next person, but do I really NEED it? Do I really truly need to order a special XL pizza from Papa John's for just $11.99? And hey, throw in an order of breadsticks and extra garlic-butter dipping sauce while you're at it! I lived like that in the past, and that's why I got to be well over 200 pounds. And that's not to say we don't go out and get a restaurant pizza once in a great while. But we've stopped living with the "fast food/delivery" mentality. It's a vicious trap, and these coupons only promote it, and make it easier to fall into that abyss of grease.

Luckily we have a recycle bin here at our house, and the only thing good about these coupons is that they are biodegradable and hopefully will be used to create something beneficial- like compost for vegetables!

A Fat Girl's Wardrobe

Wow, yes, another gorgeous sunset to end our day yesterday. I feel very fortunate that I get to enjoy them so frequently. Our street is one big hill, and our house sits almost to the top while the sun sets towards the bottom of the hill. It gives me unimpeded views every evening, and one of the things in life that makes me feel at peace is a sunset and the slow warmth of the sky afterward.

So here is the post I was not certain I wanted to make, because to me it's embarrassing, but it's something I feel like someone else out there will relate to I hope. The photos are at the bottom, but please don't scroll down until you read my story.

When we moved into the house, the master bedroom closet only had one measly wire shelf in it. I looked at my husband and said "You've got to be kidding me!" His first project after we moved in was that closet. Folks, he did a spectacular job of installing a lot of shelves, a new (brighter) light fixture, and even bought a few storage cabinets for stuff like my makeup, lotions, etc., so they wouldn't hog up the bathroom. He did a wonderful job, and I am so thankful for him in so many ways. As family and friends came to visit us in our new home James, and rightfully so, wanted to show off his handiwork. As for me, I was thoroughly embarrassed to have even family members in my closet because I knew what everyone's reaction would be. See, I have a lot of clothes, way too many for one person.

Like many people who have struggled with their weight all their lives, the number on the scale has gone up and down, up and down, and when it goes up it seems to get higher each time. In my closet I have sizes ranging from 24 to 12, 3X to just a regular large. I've got clothes in there with tags still hanging on them, because when I bought them I thought wow, if I lose five more pounds these pants will fit. But I would never lose the five pounds. I've even got clothes in there my skinny sister gave me several years ago that she wore when she was pregnant (not "maternity" clothes- just a bigger size for her), and even those are way too small for me but they are nice pieces and very dressy, so I wanted to save them as well.

I get angry with myself knowing that in 2003 I went from my biggest size, down to my smallest, and within a few years I went right back up to my biggest again. Nonetheless, those smaller clothes- not to mention my collection of cute Victoria's Secret bras and lingerie that I was wearing when James and I were first dating (sorry dad)- are all still in my closet. I've clung to them hoping that one day I will be back down in a 12.

I do quite often give clothes to Goodwill, in fact several times a year I fill up a bag or box and take over to them, but that is because I keep getting heavier and I need to buy larger clothes. I gave them several boxes of clothes right before we moved. At the last house, the closet was smaller, and a lot of my "small" size clothes were boxed up under the bed. One afternoon James and I went through EVERY piece of clothing I owned and together decided to "keep" or "donate". It was eye-opening for me when he would tell me he really didn't like a particular item on me, or he felt it didn't fit properly. It was interesting to see "me" and the way I looked through someone else's eyes, but I appreciated the opportunity. And his honesty.

So below is my closet, with all my clothes. Most of you will say OMG! Or others will think, damn she's a diva or, how dare she live to such excess. The truth of the matter is, a lot of those clothes are several years old, and I can only fit into about 5-10% of what you see. The rest is too small, and I keep telling myself to hang onto it all because as I lose weight, I will have an instant wardrobe instead of having to go out and buy new clothes. My husband says to get rid of it all. Not that he doesn't believe I will lose weight, I just think he thinks I'm being a bit silly. I am a 2X right now, probably I could fit into a 1X but I like my clothes a little baggy, thinking it hides my fatness. Besides, I haven't worn tight jeans since I was 19.

I am not posting these photos to show off by any means, I am posting them to show how sorry and pitiful I am!! It is probably time to go through everything again and make a run to Goodwill. I have to be sensible and say that I will be 43 this year, and even if I lose back down to a size 12, am I really going to want to wear those items I wore six years ago? Probably not. I am torn between trying to be practical by saving future money, and realistic that I don't need the clothes right now while someone else out there does. It has been on my mind a lot lately, and I think I am coming to the decision that it would make more of a difference in the life of someone who needs clothes and can wear them now.

Any negative comment that someone wants to make here, trust me, I've already said it to myself.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Great Day

I did have a great day today, and I'm getting ready to settle in for the evening, make a small bowl of quinoa for dinner and read for awhile on the back deck (with kitty company). Hubby won't be home for a few hours yet, after his meeting, and I am guessing I'll be in bed already. The TV won't come on until 9:00 when I will watch one show, then lights out, or I'll read until I get sleepy. I have a post I am working on for tomorrow, but I'm not sure if I want to do it or not, because I don't want my friends in blogland to see me in a wrong light. It may reveal more personal info than I want it to. Anyhow, I will sleep on it.

Last night we booked our flight to go to Florida next month. I've already called our wonderful pet sitter Jane, who adores Romeo and said she wants to take him home with her. The cats are fine when we go out of town for just a weekend, but we will be leaving on a Thursday afternoon and won't be home until the following Tuesday night. I just feel more comfortable having Jane check in on them, mainly to do a head count and see that everyone has stayed out of trouble.
I leave her the treat tin, tuna cans, and the special bowls the kids use for said tuna- just the sound of me taking them out of the cabinet has the whole herd running for the kitchen. Of course, even with a pet sitter, I still worry about the kitties whenever we are gone away.

I am looking forward to the visit, we only get to go to Florida once, occasionally twice a year. And although my folks come to visit us a few times a year, I do like to go home and see the town, the beach, and my sister and her family. A lot of my hometown changes over the seasons, but a lot of it stays the same. Many of the places I used to go to or hang out at as a kid are still there, and a lot have disappeared due to progress. My mom and I have one store that we shop at every time I go down there, we will go out on my dad's boat for an afternoon, and we will have a fantastic dinner here. I started going here back in the 70's when it first opened, and I continued to go there throughout high school and beyond. And now, whenever I go back home I must, I repeat I must eat there. I am a pizza connoisseur, and I've never been able to find pizza as go
od as the ones there. That is always a to-hell-with-the-diet moment for me, I am pigging out on the mushroom and sausage pizza so thick with toppings you have to eat it with a knife and fork!

So I am counting the days until we leave. Besides laundry and a few other fun chores, the only other exciting thing I did today was spend a few hours in the studio. I installed a few more shelves (that my husband made) in my cabinets, hung a few pieces of artwork, and also got the curtain rod and curtains up in the room. The curtains were in my little art room back at the old house, and I decided I was not going to leave them for the next owners since I liked them so much. They were just cheapies from Lowe's, but I love the colors- I am an earthtone girl.

Anyhow, hope everyone has a great evening, I will be back on again tomorrow.

(photo of my afternoon project- who says girls can't use power tools??)

World's Smallest Cat!!

It's A Beautiful Morning

Here is the view from my driveway this morning at 6:30 when I went out to get the newspapers. Gorgeous, isn't it? I know, sailors take warning and all that. But it's a spectacular way to start off the day- and this was before I even had my coffee! The moon still hanging, the perfect colors, the soft wisps of clouds. It's already sunny now, and a hummingbird just visited the feeder outside the office window. I have the window open and could hear his patented buzzing of wings as he stopped to hover over his breakfast. Now I am enjoying the song of a very talented mockingbird perched on the street light across the road from the house. This is a beautiful morning indeed.

James left for work at his normal 7:00am, and he has a long day ahead of him. He and several others are traveling down to Columbus, Georgia to meet with, and have dinner with, their drivers who work out of that area. It's something he does about once a month, visiting the outlying regions for the Atlanta division, touching base with employees he doesn't have the chance to see very often. He won't be home until close to bedtime tonight. And today I have no errands that will take me outside the home, so I have a lot of projects in mind.

Above is one of the cabinets in the new studio, and I was stunned but everything is finding a new home easily. It's wonderful to be organized. I put all of my pottery supplies in one cabinet, all of my paints and canvas in another cabinet, all of my sewing projects in another. The photo above is the fourth cabinet that contains all of my scrapbooking gear- I forgot how much I had until I gathered it all in one place. Today I will be installing a curtain rod and duh, hanging curtains in the room. I have blinds on the windows, so the curtains are just a frilly extra to add color to the room. Next project for the room will be to start hanging my collection of black cat artwork. So, that's where I will be again today, upstairs.

And on a final note, here is our living room which will be empty as of tomorrow. Well, empty in principle. Tonight is the last of the "season finales" for the shows that we watch, and every year we vow not to sit around and watch reruns when there are other things we can be doing (playing basketball, walking in the neighborhood, yard work) with our time. Tonight, after watching my favorite show Criminal Minds, the TV will more than likely be off every evening (except for sporting events). The older I get, the more I lose interest in watching TV. We have a few favorite shows that we like, and we watch those. Even though I'm home for 12 hours every day before James comes home from work, the TV does not come on. I find that once I sit down on the couch, I have trouble making myself get back up. So during the day, the TV stays off. I only watch 1-2 hours of TV a day, just our prime time shows. No news (we get 2 papers), no talk shows (Oprah is boring these days), no how-to shows on HGTV or Food Network (I have too many projects to actually do, and too many meals to actually prep).

Summer is almost upon us, and I don't want to spend my summer evenings trapped in the living room watching a rerun of How I Met Your Mother or Law & Order. Loved the episodes the first time around, don't need to see them a second or third time.

The following photo montage is how I spent my evening last night- strolling through the yard, reading a book out on the back deck, and letting the kitties have sup
ervised outdoor time- yes, even Romeo. Everyone have a wonderful day and I will be back on here tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

True But Weird Confession

I have a confession to make. One of my favorite "snacks" is croutons. Yes, those crunchy little salad toppers. I don't know if it qualifies as a food fetish, but I love to snack on them straight from the bag. I'm not one for chips or crackers, but when I get the munchies in the afternoon, I head for the produce drawer in our fridge, pull out the bag, and get a handful of these:

My favorite brand is Fresh Gourmet and my favorite flavor is the cornbread croutons (see below). They also have killer Multi-Grain Parmesan Caesar croutons that feature delicious pumpernickel bread! I don't know what it is about them, but they satisfy some kind of hankering that I get around late midday. Maybe it's a carb craving, I don't know, but a small handful of them seems to do the trick. When I go grocery shopping, I always buy two bags because I know one bag will go on our salads, but the other bag will disappear throughout the week as my daily snack!

What is your bizarre snack confession??

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

I have gotten a few emails from friends back in SC about how my hair is growing out and how I should keep it short. My mom loves it short. Hubby says it's cute on me. No, sorry to you all. I've had long hair all my life, and have had a short style maybe 2-3 times over the years. I've always grown it back out. My natural color is super dark brown, almost black. But I like it red, so try to keep it colored. I started going blond a few years ago and I am sorry to say that the over-processing completely ruined my hair. It was getting thin, broken, super dry. So in 2008 I cut it off. Yes, me, one day in the bathroom with a pair of scissors. It was a spur of the moment decision. My hubby was passed out on the couch recovering from dental surgery, and I went upstairs and literally just chopped it off with no premeditation at all. Eventually I had to go to a salon to have it professionally cut (I thought I did a good job myself), and the last time I went my girl Amy cut it WAY too short and that was the last time for me. I love short cuts and cute styles, but not on me, just on other people! Now I'm growing my curly mess back out and hope to keep it healthier this time (read: no more blond). So here is the not-so-brief and very boring photo history of my hair from my husband's collection...... What is your verdict- short or long, light or dark??

(summer of 2004- my "real" hair color)

(early 2005- close to my natural color)

(late 2005- getting lighter)

(early 2006- the day before my wedding, really light)

(fall of 2006- way too blond)

(Christmas 2006- this is when it started to get thin and scraggly, and falling out)

(early 2008, here is where I cut it myself)

(a month later, professionally cut...)

(....and straightened- it took her an hour!!)

(fall 2008- the cut that made me scream NO MORE!- and yes I have naturally curly hair)

(watch out- the frumpy, middle-aged, angry fat lady look!!)

(current- letting it grow out and dealing with it)