Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Quick Succulent Centerpiece

I don't have a green thumb.  My herbs do well...when I remember to water them.  But sometimes you just want something that is a little harder to kill and doesn't require re-potting and all of that fun stuff. I was expecting company one day and I had dried boxwood and faux berries in a vintage plant box on the kitchen pass thru.  Did I mention it was April?  Yeah, I would've gotten razzed beyond belief on that one so I ran up to the nursery to throw together this...

I threw away the 'preserved' boxwood and took the box with me to the nursery so I knew that the pots I selected would fit.  I had no time for re-potting and I needed to be able to move them easily when they got bigger.

Now, lets get started.  Take your empty box or sewing drawer...

Put your pots in them and you're done.  See!  Easy!

I'm sorry, what did you say?  They look ugly with those pots sitting there above the top of the drawer?  I agree.  This is where Hobby Lobby came in...

50% off, yo.
I was going to buy some regular roll burlap but saw this dreamy blue and couldn't resist.  I measured out the length I would need with some overlap and then trimmed about 1/3 of it down so it wouldn't raise up over the plants since the pots were the only thing I wanted to cover.

I placed my succulents back in there and the pots were perfectly covered.  The only thing I didn't care for was the crappy potting soil I could see in that second one.

Luckily I had some pebbles that just 10 minutes earlier I wondered "what the hell am I going to do with these?"  Sorry for the blurry pic...I was just too excited that they blended in so well.

I put the side with the seam in the kitchen so guests wouldn't see it and boom...quick, instant centerpiece that should last me all summer and fall long.

It didn't even matter that I wasn't here for a month to water them!  I watered them the day before we left on vacation and put them near a window (not in it though so as not to scorch them) and they did beautifully.  I came back, gave them a little water and they were good to go!

There are many different varieties of succulents with different light recommendations so take that into consideration if you're going to keep yours indoors.

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Monday, May 30, 2016

Happy Memorial Day

I'm gonna take advantage of this three day weekend and enjoy some recovery time with the Mr.  I hope you guys do the same with people you like spending time with and remember the reason for the holiday.

Remember if you're going to grill out there are many yummy, healthy grill worthy foods out there!

What are your favorite foods to grill?

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Friday, May 27, 2016

Homeward bound

"No man needs a vacation so much as the man who has just had one."
- Elbert Hubbard

Isn't that the truth?  It doesn't matter how long you're on vacation or how rejuvenated you feel before stepping into the airport...all of that starts fading away the second you return the rental car.  The irritation from other passengers, being on a plane longer than a work day, the layovers, the rushing then waiting, the bad airplane or airport food with inflated prices and by the time you get home you've got a whole new set of things to deal with.  Voice mails, emails (no, we do not take computers on vacation), snail mail, bills and inevitably there is always some crisis that is waiting for us.  Some family member has decided to wait until the day we get back to spring some massive computer problem they need resolved ASAP when we haven't spoken to them in months, someone needs a favor or on the morbid side, loved ones die.  Yep, it's happened 4 or 5 different times we've been on vacation.

I'm praying this vacation is different these things aren't waiting on us since we come home today.  I would like to come home relaxed, with life giving us an extra day or two to get back into the groove before harshing our vacation mellow.  It's part of the reason we're always vague about a return date with family and are very careful about liking or commenting on anything on social media.  Once they know you're home...all bets are off.  I have to remember how to blog again since I'll have not done it daily in over a month!  Forgive me as I knock some rust off next week!  ;-)

We need to go to the grocery store and stock up on fruits, veggies and healthy schtuff to purge the sins that have likely stuck to our hips.  It's always nice to get back to a regular routine food and exercise wise after letting loose on vacay a bit.  (Hats off to the ones who lose weight or maintain on vacation...that'll never be us.)  It's like after vacation you just crave that and I also get really inspired by the food we have on vacation.  I love to recreate dishes and try to make them healthier or get inspired by new ingredients I've come across.  Come Sunday, we'll jump back into a planned program as we try to get jet lag under control and readjust to a 6 hour time difference.  Melatonin shall be my friend and water...lots and lots of water!

Three day weekend!  Woot!

What's on tap for you this weekend?  Got any trips coming up?

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

What I'm Loving This Week

Hey guys!  Summer is coming...can ya feel it?  Getting antsy for it?  Me too...as long it's not swamp arse hot too soon.  (Or ever.)

It's time for me to share...

Andalou Naturals Blemish Vanishing Gel Maximum Strength (affiliate link) 

In my quest to change to more natural skincare, I was relieved to see this blemish gel from Andalou Naturals works just as good as the zit creams we grew up with.  2.0% Salicylic Acid is the usual active ingredient but the rest to combat inflammation and speed healing are all non-grody (an actual term) ingredients.

Andalou Naturals Ultra Sheer SPF 18 Daily Defense Facial Lotion (affiliate link) 

Since I was a child of the 80's, my idea of sunscreen was Hawaiian Tropic SPF 4.  My mom's generation was tinfoil and baby oil so you know, I was much safer.  ;-)  But given the last 10 years have put serious emphasis on the importance of sunscreen in every day life, I was also going to go natural with this one.  I've tried a few natural sunscreens but I love this one the most.  It's not greasy or shiny and given most make up has an element of sunscreen built in, this is a great moisturizer that will happen to give you some extra sun protection.  One of my favorites!

Shiatsu Back/Neck Massager  (affiliate link) 

(Not me or my luxurious home)
I remember being at Brookstone several years ago and seeing something similar.  I put a paper towel over my neck and gave it a try and dang did it feel good.  What did not feel good was it's $100+ price tag.  When I was doing an exercise program that left me feeling pretty stiff in basically every area of my body, I wanted to see if prices came down.  I ran across this baby and at just under $50, I figured even if it was crap, it'd be like getting a bad massage for one session.  Oh my Lord!  The little knobby things in the back are slightly heated and really dig in there.  You hold onto the straps to control the pressure and it got out some serious knots for me several times.  Because I do things with gusto, I was left with a pretty good set of soreness the next day and slightly better the following day.  As long as you don't overdo the pressure, it should be good.  I've used it on my neck, shoulders, back, rump and legs.  I tried the feet but it felt weird.  You can turn off the heat if you don't want it or switch directions if you don't like how it feels going one way over another.  Perfect if you have a partner reluctant to dig into your muscles or if you live alone and don't have the money for deep tissue massages.

Confetti Heartthrob Nail Polish

I absolutely love this shade for summer.  I'm not a fan of super bright, weird or dark gothy nail polishes.  I'm traditional (aka-boring).  When I'm able to grow out my nails, in the summer I like a more sheer polish so you can see the whites peeking through.  This does that with a coat or two and goes well from beach to fancy dinner.  It helps that it's inexpensive and available at most drugstores.

JBL Micro Wireless Ultra-Portable Speaker (affiliate link) 

About 10 years ago, having an iPod dock in homes we stayed in while we traveled was pretty common.  Now the thing that is pretty common is to have broken iPod/MP3 docks in the homes we stay in.  Mama needs some music or white noise to sleep so no sound just makes me sit there listening to thoughts run through my head.  Enter this baby.  It's small enough to throw in the carry on and we leave it plugged it in at night to charge.  If we're going to be out by the pool, go to the beach or on a picnic, we can get about 3-5 hours on the battery if we are smart with the volume.  We'll never be at the mercy of rental homes for our music again!

What are you guys loving this week?

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Review: Beach Colours Natural Self Tanner

I was quite the sun worshipper back in the day.  It was the time when they told us tans gave you a "healthy glow" and honestly, everyone does look better with a little color.  The problem is when I was a kid, sunscreen was for wusses.  Hand me some Hawaiian Tropic oil or stick me in a pool with the arms outstretched, face to the heavens and ask the sun gods to "fry me!"  The last time I uttered that phrase was in 2010 on Kauai.  Fry me, they did.  I also have a nice souvenir from that trip...a sun spot on my temple!  That crap is for grandma's...not thirty somethings!  Nope!

So then I became a sunscreen and self tanner fan.  That lotion from Jergen's worked fine but the smell was so bad I had to chuck it.  Luckily the drugstore knock off was similar in result with a more pleasant smell. When I began to become aware of just how many cancer causing and hormone changing products we use on a daily basis, I started to go natural not just with my skin care routine but I wanted to transition everything as much as possible.  This was now going to include sunless tanners.   (Enter any of your shampoos, creams, potions, etc in Google and type EWG after it and it will likely be in the database to tell you how toxic your potion is.)  After perusing Amazon for reviews, I saw Caribbean Solutions Beach Colors Natural Self Tanner (affiliate link) got good ones so I decided to give it a try.

I have sensitive skin so stuff like this can be tricky for me.  Here are the ingredients in the lotion.

This is the consistency.  Just your average run of the mill lotion.

It wasn't runny or anything and didn't even have a smell that I could detect in lotion form.  But you will get that tanner smell within a few hours because of the natural DHA that works with your body chemistry.

This is my arm before.

There's an initial whitish cast to the skin but it absorbs quickly after being rubbed in well.  Don't forget to lather up the palms of your hands with soap and rinse it off or you could end up with tell tale brown palm!  ;-)

Here's the result after 3 days of use:

In case you'd prefer a side by side:

I'm really pleased with the result!  No Tony the Tiger look, no smell that a *light* hand wash of the area won't get rid of.  (Honestly, I still used one of those bath puffs but went over it lightly with no run off.)  It stayed put for all of my workouts and I sweat pretty heavily during some of them.  Since I only put it on my forearms initially, I looked like I had a farmers tan so that was kind of the look I was going for since my upper arm is a little lighter than the forearm.

I am definitely going to use this throughout the summer and then slather on the sunscreen over it so I look sun-kissed without the hassle of you know, cancer, wrinkles, sunspots and such.  For me, this is one of the most important reasons...

Click above to enlarge

I will take a pretty much all clear from the EWG on my self tanner than one that rates moderate leaning toward high for toxicity with the same color results.  If you're a sunless tanner user and want to see if yours is listed, click here to scroll the list.

A few notes:

Always make sure you exfoliate before application or it'll show off your dead skin like nothing else!

Apply coconut oil or another deep moisturizing lotion to knees, ankles, knuckles, wrists and any place there is a natural bend or crease before application.

Those areas will be your tell tale signs so go light on them.  I usually apply to those areas with what is left after rubbing in the larger area.

If you wash your hands a lot, your hands will be the first place to fade, keep an eye on them and reapply lightly as necessary.

Do you use sunless tanners?  Would you consider switching to this  (affiliate link)  (or other) all natural sunless tanner?

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

You do you

**Another draft that never got published!  This one was from October 2015.  Still applies**

The weight loss industry is a 20+ billion dollar business per year.  At any one time, there are 100 million people on a diet!  Some people are out to truly help others and just happen to make money and others have specific products to sell whether it's supplements, books, shakes, equipment, etc.

We were having dinner with some friends a while back and he showed us this podcast he thought we might like.  One of the casters was morbidly obese, just over 450 lbs I believe.  Then he showed us a video of him six months later, after he lost 100 lbs in that time.  For those doing the math, that's 16 1/2 lbs per month or just over 4 lbs per week.  Of course, as most of us are when someone loses a goodly amount of weight, they want to know how he did it so he did a video at viewers request.  As he went on to say how he is doing the ever popular 'high protein, low carb' diet.  (He didn't say which one but they're all in the same vein so Google it if you're interested in that type of thing)

At first, I wasn't quite sure why he was showing it to us.  I wasn't sure if this was a hint like "hey guys, I notice your vacation weight from 5 months ago is still clinging to your middle" or something.  As the guy talked about all of the things he couldn't eat including healthy grains, I told them that we essentially tried our version of that a month prior.  We were nowhere near a traditional low carb diet, we were more 'carb conscious' than anything.  I was an angry person, I felt deprived of things that were GOOD for me like whole grains...you know, things your brain needs to function and such?  When I feel resentful and deprived, it's not good for anyone.  The Mr felt the same way.  We knew that we could still be carb conscious but have a friggin' bowl of oatmeal on higher cardio days.

He said he was thinking of trying it to lose 20-30 lbs quickly.  We tried not to let our own opinions sway him but instead asked what a typical day of eating looked like for him.  If he's accurate, he's not even eating 1000 calories a day and he has a highly physical job.  So we encouraged him to get in more quality calories and do something that is something he could sustain for life, not something that cuts out any food group (other than processed, overly refined foods, obviously).  We stopped short of suggesting our particular style of eating because that's something he'd need to discover for himself but we at least gave him tips that helped us.  It's up to him on what he wants to do with it.

There is so much contradictory information out there on what is and isn't healthy for you that it has completely confused many people.  It's not just those looking to start a program for the first time, even old timers like us are constantly confused by the bombardment of info.  What is healthy in one study is unhealthy two years later.  Or that plan that was so popular one year has resulted in serious health issues for people 10 years later.  I get it.  I remember being in that desperate place of reading any success story I could find and wondering if what they were doing was something we could do too and I don't just mean in the beginning.  But having done everything from Weight Watchers to low fat diets (and losing not a single pound) to soup diets and the like, I knew when we embarked on a full on lifestyle change it had to be something we could do for life.  I couldn't handle a "jump start" that would then have me gain back all the weight I lost plus more when I began to incorporate healthy foods I liked back in after introduction phases and such.  It's just not us.  If it works for someone else, have at it.  Literally...there is no right or wrong, it's what works for each and every individual because we are all different.  What works for one, will not work for another.  What makes one person happy, makes another miserable.  What warrants amazing weight loss for one, will warrant no results for another.  If weight loss truly was about "X is what works for everyone" then all doctors would prescribe it to their patients and there wouldn't be 138,937 results on Amazon when I look up the term "diet book".

The bottom line was we told our friend to do what works for him but more importantly what he could sustain for life.  Life isn't going to be very fun if you think you're going to diet purgatory for an occasional indulgence or aren't on the current bandwagon trend.

Update:  He didn't implement any changes that we're aware of.  So you can do that too.  But remember what they say about insanity...it's doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

What advice do you give to others who ask for your healthy lifestyle tips?

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Monday, May 23, 2016

Will I always feel this way?

**I was going through draft posts and have no idea why I didn't hit publish on this one.  It was written mid-August last year but I think it's still worth a peep.**

When you're tipping toward 500 lbs, the last thing you want to do is go out in public.  Many people close to me have said they still can't believe I ever weighed that much because I looked closer to 350 lbs because of my height.  Regardless of if they were trying to be nice or just oblivious, I felt every pound of my weight, especially in public.

I can probably count on one hand how many times something has been said to me in public and while that's bad enough, it's pretty low considering stories I've read where people are constantly harassed or even have stuff thrown at them.  Seriously!?!  Society sucks sometimes...well, a lot of the time these days but I digress.  Some of these comments I heard and others I couldn't hear but knew they weren't complimenting me on my stretch jeans with elastic waistband by their tone.  Even after losing 225 lbs and looking what many would call "normal fat" over "record scratch fat", there are times I still feel like the vulnerable woman bracing up for insults to be hurled.

Last Wednesday when we were setting up for an evening paddle and almost ready to shove off, a gang of dudes in their late teens or early twenties came out of nowhere and started walking in the parking lot toward us.  I could only see trucks with trailers attached in the lot and they didn't have a boat so I feared the worst.  I didn't know if they were coming over to see the fat couple or to make a comment about our weight.  I tried not to look at them so as not to encourage them or acknowledge their presence.  I looked down to get my paddle latched together and I heard doors slam and an engine start.  I glanced up to see they were in a truck that didn't have a trailer and drove off.  A wave of relief came over me and I was so glad that my self esteem didn't have to take a bigger hit than I was already giving it.

The fact is, I'm still in the mid-upper 200's...someone else's "before" to my "two-thirds there" and it's not unrealistic to think that people could still make comments.  I don't feel this way all the time but usually when I see a bunch of young guys, I know they are the demographic that is the most free with hurling the insults like they're playing football.  I know even if I get anywhere near what a doctor's chart calls a healthy weight that on some level I will likely still have that knee jerk reaction.  It's just a result of the way I've lived my life and I have to make peace with that.  It's not like it's some thing that daunts me whenever I'm in public but given how much more mean and scrutinizing the public seems to be these days, I suppose I'll never feel truly immune.  By the way, what's with that anyway?  How is it that 2/3 of us are apparently varying degrees of overweight or obese yet it seems like everyone rips anyone that doesn't have bones popping out a new one for not fitting that mold??  I've got news, I've been out in a lot of cities in a lot of places and maybe .12% of people I've seen in the wild look remotely close to what is considered the "ideal" according to the internet.  Maybe we're all mistaking a bunch of crap on the internet for the common person's view when it isn't that at all?  But that's a whole other topic.

Have you had comments made to you in public about your weight or been given that up and down disgust look?  Have you ever "braced up" for them and they never came?

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Friday Five - Travel Traditions

The week was hectic so I didn't have enough links to make up a proper What I'm Reading This Week.

So I thought in the last few travel themes for this month, we'd carry on with it this Friday with travel traditions.

When we travel we have several superstitious things or habits we must do.  Here they are...

1.  Within 2 weeks of air travel, we must watch Airplane! (affiliate link) 

I think it was on right before our honeymoon and we just continued to make it a tradition to watch it before every airplane travel excursion.  (Since road trips have been part of our repertoire the past few years, we'll sub out National Lampoon's Vacation  (affiliate link)  for Airplane when we're driving)

2.  Visit local graves of those who have passed.

We visit grandparents, special people and even pups that have passed and ask them to watch over us as we fly.  (Making sure to add that while we love them and want to see them again, we're not ready to see them yet!)

3.  Carry a travel angel with us.

My mom got me a travel angel pin when I started flying to California to visit my dad back in the 80's.  I carry that as well as a St. Christopher coin I got at the Carmel Mission in 2010.  I figure when we travel, you can never have enough angels and saints on your side.  ;-)

4. Hold hands on take off and landing.

When we barely made a flight 10 years ago, we got on the plane, got settled and the flight attendant noticed we were holding hands.  He said "aww, are you guys on your honeymoon?"  We said "no, it's our 10 year anniversary."  He couldn't stop gushing over that.  It just feels right.  If something bad happens at that moment, I want to be attached to my man.

5. Our favorite pizza on the way home.

I know, not healthy.  But after an 8-18 hour travel adventure, the last damn thing I'm doing is cooking!  So we grab a medium pizza from our favorite local shop on the way home, eat dinner and then unload the car.  It's kind of that welcome home of something familiar you love when you're depressed that your vacation is over and you're back home.

Do you have any travel superstitions or habits?

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(This post contains affiliate links)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Review of Beekman 1802 Pantry Pancake Mix

I love me some pancakes...it's true.  I can't help it.  We rarely have them on high cal day because it's just so hard to find good, fluffy ones anymore especially at restaurants that have the word pancake in their title.  What's up with that?  (Am I the only one that broke into SNL's skit...."ooooh weee!  What's up with that?  What's up with that?"  I am?  Nope...the Mr just did.)

Anyhoo, back to pancakes.  I'm a big time Beekman 1802 fan ever since visiting their store in Sharon Springs.  When I saw they were bringing a pantry line of products to Target that would donate back a percentage of the profits to small American farms...I was all over it!  When I saw they had pancakes, well sign me up!

Okay, so here's a peek at the nutritional info as well as the ingredients.  It's really hard to find pancake mixes that aren't 450-600mg of sodium per serving so I was happy with the numbers on this.

I love how much of it is all organic ingredients but how would it stack up?  I mixed together the wet ingredients and it was thin enough to make me a little nervous.

I used my ice cream scoop and put it in a medium heat skillet, covered it and waited for the results.

Little bubbles?  Check!

I gave it a flip and well...I was less than impressed.

So I decided to do other things and gave the batter 15 minutes to incorporate and thicken a bit.  I put the next one in the skillet and waited for it to rise as it was under cover and then crossed my fingers.

Now that's what I'm talking 'bout!

Each following pancake was perfectly cooked with nice browned edges.  There was actual taste unlike other semi-healthy pancake mixes we've tried that tasted like cardboard.  Not this mix!  There's this great slight sweetness to it that comes through.  They were quite the welcome guest in mah pancake hole.

Pair it with a little pat o' butter and some real maple syrup and that is a mighty fine way to have brunch!

Definitely pick up a box of this if you see it not just because pancake = delicious but because buying from the Beekman Pantry is a great way to support our farmers.  Vote with your wallet and show big business you want to see more of this!

You should be able to find Beekman Pantry items including this mix at your local Target.  If you prefer to pick some up with a lot of other great farm to you products just click on through to

Beekman 1802

Have you tried Beekman 1802 products?  Which are your favorite?

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

CocoChoco Banana Smoothie

One weekend as I was planning our Sunday meals, I saw we were going to be low on protein and still had a goodly amount of calories to "spend."  This tends to be the case protein wise on Sundays and I needed to try to make up the deficit.  Since my experiment with yogurt had been going well and I had a flavor I still needed to try, I thought I would throw together this concoction.  

It made the Mr and I cuckoo for cocochoco puffs.  (Points if you get the reference)

Now I must tell you that neither of us are big coconut fans so if that made you wrinkle your nose (Woodsy), I can tell you that the coconut flavor is very subtle but lends a great richness that will make you feel like you're getting away with something.  But I've also made it with Trader Joe's Vanilla Bean Greek Yogurt and it tastes more like a regular chocolate shake that way.  Give both a try!

Here's what you'll need to make one smoothie

4 oz Banana, sliced
1 Date, pitted and quartered
2 tbsp Bell Plantation PB2 Powdered Peanut Butter  (affiliate link) 
2 tsp Unsweetened Cocoa
1 scoop Chocolate Designer Whey Protein Powder (affiliate link) 
1/2 small container Trader Joe's Coconut Cream Nonfat Greek Yogurt
4 oz Fairlife Fat Free Milk
1 packet Stevia (optional)

I whipped out the ol Magic Bullet and added the banana and date.

Add the PB2 and unsweetened cocoa.

Add yogurt and milk.

Top with protein powder.

Give it a whirl until smooth and delicious.

Put in a fancy glass and enjoy this as a meal replacement, after workout boost or in place of a milkshake if you happen to make burgers.  Steak and Shake's got nothin' on this baby!

Nutritional info per smoothie.  If you want to knock 100 calories off, just leave out the protein powder.

(This post contains a few affiliate links.  Should you buy through them, they will help keep the blog lights on)

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