Saturday, November 29, 2014

DIY Reclaimed Wood Noel Door Hanger

I love hand-making gifts.  There is just something about having someone special on your heart while crafting something for them with your hands.

Recently I made this door hanger for Little K’s adopted Aunt G.  Aunt G has been a blessing to all of us, and has become part of our family.

DIY Reclaimed Wood Noel Door Hanger

DIY Reclaimed Wood Noel Door Hanger

{Begin with a reclaimed drawer front.

DIY Reclaimed Wood Noel Door Hanger

{Spray it with 1-2 coats of the color of your choice, letting each coat dry before the next application.

DIY Reclaimed Wood Noel Door Hanger

{Trace letters onto the drawer front, so that the word NOEL will be printed vertically.

DIY Reclaimed Wood Noel Door Hanger

{Using a white paint pen, outline the letters.

DIY Reclaimed Wood Noel Door Hanger

{Fill in the letters using a small paint brush and white craft paint.  If you would like, you can lightly shadow the letters using a pale gray and a very thin brush.

DIY Reclaimed Wood Noel Door Hanger

{Let it dry.  Lightly sand to give the piece a distressed appearance.

DIY Reclaimed Wood Noel Door Hanger

DIY Reclaimed Wood Noel Door Hanger

{Spray with 1-2 coats of a clear matte finish, letting it dry between coats.

DIY Reclaimed Wood Noel Door Hanger

{Once dry, you can use this piece as a decorative “leaner”, but I felt it needed something more.

DIY Reclaimed Wood Noel Door Hanger

{Drill a small hole each of the top two corners, using a 1/8” drill bit.

DIY Reclaimed Wood Noel Door Hanger

{Cut 19 gauge steel wire to your desired length.  Wrap it continually around a broom handle or thin PVC pipe.

DIY Reclaimed Wood Noel Door Hanger

{Lace the wire through the drilled holes and secure it by twisting it into place.

DIY Reclaimed Wood Noel Door Hanger

{To add a bit of extra festive color, lace fabric or ribbon through the wire and tie a bow that will rest at the top of the piece.

DIY Reclaimed Wood Noel Door Hanger


DIY Reclaimed Wood Noel Door Hanger

{Now gift it to someone special who keeps you In Good Company.

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Dear Frustrated: Part 2 (Revised)

{Again, this is a revised version of the words I wrote over a year and a half ago.  When it comes to eating, I have been in various stages of opposites in my life.  I have went from severely eating disordered, to dismissing the idea that food choices had anything at all to do with health, to making only the cleanest food choices possible, to where I am at now; which is trying to find a long-term balance that is healthy for me.  I am re-writing this and sharing it as much for me as I am for you.}

Dear Frustrated:

As promised in Dear Frustrated: Part 1 (Revised), I want to address healthy eating.  I will admit to you that I have struggled greatly with health in terms of food, and have only recently been able to truly understand its importance.  There are varying schools of thought on food and health, two of the most common being: 1) eat whatever you can and however much you can and work out and you will be fine and 2) exercise isn’t important as long as you diet.  I can tell you that both of those are not only wrong, but unhealthy.  What is the best is actually: 3) eat healthy and regularly perform varying forms of exercise including strength training, cardio, and gymnastic movements.

So what exactly does eating healthy mean?  I have already mentioned how much I loathe diets and how strongly I recommend you not follow them.  Then where does that leave you?  If you aren't following what some Hollywood Doctor has written in some flavor-of-the-month diet book, then how do you eat healthy?  If you aren't counting your calories, only eating fat-free products, or cutting your carbs and gluten and grain, how do you make wise food choices?  Trust me my dear frustrated friend, many people struggle to these questions.  I used to constantly get asked which plan I was on or which cook book I followed.  Once I was even asked what "The Healthy Living Plan" was.  Here is the truth:  I do not follow plans.  The best way to obtain and maintain health is to make wise and well informed choices, and to eat as clean as possible.

I, too, have battled with understanding how to make healthy choices.  I went from one extreme of starving my body, hating food, and throwing up every bite that passed my lips; to the other extreme of eating everything in sight, pretending I didn't mind being a "full-figured" woman.  On the underweight side of unhealthy, I practically dared people to try to make me eat or to keep me from purging.  On the obese side, I, more verbally, let others know that I didn't struggle with anorexia and bulimia and then get 'healthy' just to have to watch every bite I ate.  Honestly, both extremes were disordered, and unhealthy.

So when I decided to redirect my life toward more healthful living, I found myself a bit lost.  I wasn't sure how to use food as nourishment, and at the same time to gain health.  My only experience in manipulating food choices to lose weight was in a very extreme and unhealthy way.  I want to offer you some tips and information and advice that has been useful to me, and hopefully can be useful to you.  Please bear with me if I jump around – I want to be able to share as much good information with you as possible (and that information rarely moves from my brain to my fingertips in an orderly fashion).

Dear Frustrated: Part 2
Grilled shrimp and veggies with a whole grain roll.

 Read the book Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst .  Do it.  This book spoke to me in a huge way, and, most importantly, allowed me to look inward and upward when it came to food choices.

Learn and understand your specific struggle.  Is it sugar?  Potato chips?  Soda?  Processed food?  Aspartame?  Portion control?  My specific struggles have been sugar, soda, and portion control.

Dear Frustrated: Part 2

-  Don't fall for gimmicks (i.e.: fat-free, low-calorie, light, gluten-free, organic, or low-carb, natural).  Read and understand labels.  Organic can still be highly processed, gluten free can be full of junk.  “Natural” has not been given a standard definition by the FDA, so anyone can market their artificial food as natural and change their logo green and brown.   Cheese product is not real cheese.  Many times, if a product is advertised as "low in" or "free of" something, it has a high volume of sodium and/or sugar to make up for the tastiness that went missing with the calories/fat/carbs/etc.

- Pay attention to ingredients.  If the list of materials looks like a science experiment, DON'T put it in your body.  If you try to focus on eating more from the earth, and less processed foods, you will be able to ensure much higher quality in the calories you consume.

- Eat fresh (and I am not talking about Subway) and eat at home.  If the foods you choose have a long shelf-life, chances are they will cling to the inside of your body for just as long.  Think of processed, shelf-stable foods as "cellulite-makers".  It is safe to assume that everything at most restaurants is sodium-packed with double the amount of the bad stuff that you would expect.

- Don't worry about cutting out all carbohydrates.  Your body needs carbs to function, and if you are an athlete, you need extra.  I am not suggesting that you create all of your meals out of corn, white potatoes, and white bread.  But I am suggesting that it is okay to pair a sandwich (on whole grain bread) with sliced peppers and fresh fruit (instead of chips) for lunch.  If you would like a baked potato, fine; but maybe give a baked sweet potato a try instead – but pass on the corn for that meal.  You want to make spaghetti for dinner?  Go ahead, just use whole grain noodles (or even better, zucchini noodles) and skip the garlic bread.  It's all about wise options and moderation.
Dear Frustrated: Part 2
Grilled asparagus, whole grain noodles, and homemade veggie-packed spaghetti sauce.
- Fruit is good for you, darn it!  Fruit contains many vital nutrients and vitamins that your body craves, as well as providing you with hydration.  While I don’t recommend eating fruit right before bed because of the high level of natural sugar, enjoy it (in its’ recommended serving sizes) with breakfast and lunch.  Also, bananas are great for a post-workout recovery snack.

Dear Frustrated: Part 2

- Vegetables are also great for you.  Green leafy vegetables contain more of what your body is lacking than any other food.  If you hate vegetables and want to get healthy, you are just going to have to suck it up, my friend.  I might suggest (if you really truly can't stand them) finding one that you find at least bearable and cook it every different way possible.  My very favorite vegetables are asparagus, I eat them both several times a week and I bake, grill, steam and sauté them.

- Add protein into your diet.  Protein powder used to be my BFF; I would put it in coffee, whole grain cereal, milk, and smoothies.  As my doctor explained to me, it is pertinent to your body's metabolic health to have protein within an hour of waking.  This is true, but I have found that protein powder is best used as an emergency protein back-up (studies are finding that even the best of the protein powders are full of fake ingredients, artificial ingredients, and MSG).  Chicken and eggs are always going to be your best choice.

- Don’t go to bed hungry.  Everything the 90’s taught me about food made me afraid of going to bed with a full stomach.  This resulted in many years of restless nights and waking up grouchy with extremely low blood sugar.  Consuming protein before bed will keep you from crashing, will keep your metabolism up as you sleep, and will help your body to stay nourished.  As an added bonus, when I have protein before bed, I sleep more restfully and wake easier.

- Snack.  But know the difference between a snack and a treat.  Cookies, ice cream, pretzels, and cheese dip are not snacks – those are treats.  A snack, for me, is a serving of Greek yogurt with a sprinkle of homemade granola, a bowl of fresh fruit, fresh cut vegetables, natural cheese, a couple of hard boiled eggs, a glass of milk with protein powder, or almonds.  If you keep your body fueled, you will be less likely to crave naughty indulgences.

- Watch your portions.  I have always been a member of the "clean your plate club.”  But not just the member, the president.  Portion control has been a real struggle for me.  Sometimes I feel like years of binging and purging have left my body unable to tell me when it is full.  What helped me the most (aside from reading labels and measuring out each serving), was eating off of a small salad plate instead of a large dinner plate.  Even though I make the conscious choice to grab a smaller plate for myself, I feel like it tricks my brain by making it seeing a full plate.  During the first few weeks of this, I didn't allow myself seconds, and I found that I was crazy hungry because my body was so used to over-indulging.  But now that I am used to smaller portions, I am fully satiated at each meal.  I had to re-learn the difference between full and too full.
Dear Frustrated: Part 2
The bowl on the right is how much cereal I used to eat in the mornings.
The bowl on the left is my proper measured portion.
I now eat breakfast out of a small Pyrex bowl.

Dear Frustrated: Part 2
Don't expect others to give you proper portions.  These are BOTH mediums.

- Add veggies first when filling your plate, and eat them first!  This helps you to remember to eat more greens (and oranges and reds, etc.) instead of only adding them to your plate as an afterthought.  Most generally, half of my plate is vegetables.

- Fat is good for you, and will not make you gain weight.  Your brain needs fat to function, fat is necessary for healthy skin, your body is incapable of producing the essential linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid (EFAs) without fat in your diet, and fat plays a role in promoting proper eyesight.

- Stay hydrated.  Your body needs fluids, just as much as it needs food, to properly function.  If you are appropriately hydrated, you will have more energy, feel hungry less often, your skin will appear brighter, your muscles will work better, and you will sleep better.  Though science isn’t exactly clear on how much water is enough, try to drink at least 64 oz. of water each day (and even more on the days you hit the gym).  Some studies suggest drinking as much as half of your body weight in ounces (i.e. if you weigh 200 lbs., you should drink 100 oz. of water daily).

- Have a cheat day.  I don't recommend cutting anything completely out of your diet, due to the risk of caving to your cravings and then binging – and  we all know that one bad meal can easily turn into one bad day into one by week into one bad month into one bad year.  But, if you are going to cheat, plan your cheat and measure your cheat.  Don’t sit with an open bag of sin-labeled-potato-chips in front of you if you know you are unable to stop at the recommended serving size.  Get your portion, and put it away until your next cheat day.

- Know your limits.  This is where the cheat day gets tricky.  I, personally, have what is called an addictive personality (thanks therapy).  I have a really hard time limiting the intake of something.  If I have one soda, I have to have three; if I have a bite of chocolate, I have to eat a pound; if I smoke one cigarette, I want to have an entire pack (thus, the reason I quit smoking over 6 years ago and haven't touched a cigarette since).... you get the picture.  I know and understand that my food weaknesses lie in sweets, artificial sweeteners, and soda.  When I first embarked on my journey, I gave up sweets completely because I personally had to.  I felt like I was going through drug withdrawal (which made me really consider the toxic and addictive qualities of sugar).  If you feel like you absolutely cannot say no to Teddy Grahams, Goldfish and fruit snacks; don’t buy them.  Trust me, your kids will survive, and you will all be healthier for it.  I stayed away from sweets for over nine months, and have only just recently been able to take a single bite of something sweet and then walk away (trust me, the second, third, and fourth bites taste just the same as the first... there really is no reason to have more than a little).

- Watch your alcohol intake.  I get it, your kid smeared shit on the bathroom wall and your heater stopped working and you burned dinner and your workday sucked; and all you want is to open a bottle of wine.  But part of my healthy living journey included cutting out alcohol.  I prefer sugary sweet drinks, such as margaritas and moscato.  Alcoholic beverages contain a ton of empty calories and extra sugar that you don’t need.

- Reconsider your coffee order.  I know that a super strong French vanilla latte makes the morning stress melt away.  But consider the amount of extra sugar (or artificial sweeteners in the icky sugar-free versions).  Try a better option, like raw honey, or raw stevia instead.

- Pray.  I have, on many occasions, prayed through a food craving.  At a dinner party once, the host literally waved a delicious-looking fruit-topped cake under my nose, knowing that I was on a mission to get healthy.  I excused myself, went to the bathroom, and prayed until I felt like I could re-join the party without indulging.

- Finally, and most importantly, keep a food journal.  Write down absolutely every single thing you eat and drink.  Don't count your calories, track your points, count your carbs, or calculate your fat grams (because, let's be honest, how long would you be able to keep up that tedious task anyway?).  Just write down everything you put in your mouth.  An example of what I would write for a meal would be: 1 glass of 2% milk, 1/2 grilled chicken breast, 1 whole grain roll with organic sweet cream butter, baked asparagus with Spike seasoning, small dinner salad with 2 TBSP Italian dressing.  The purpose isn't to count or track, the purpose is to create accountability and honesty.  Think of your food journal as the cop you always see on your way to work.  You want to speed, because you are running late, again, but you know better.  Same with your food journal.  I may want to eat an entire package of Double-Stuffed Oreos, but I'll be damned if I have to write that in my food journal.  Be honest with yourself when you write your entries.  Lying only cheats you.

Dear Frustrated: Part 2

I hope that these tips have given you helpful information.  I would love to hear any questions you might have, as well as be kept updated on your progress.  Stay tuned for the last installment of this series, where we will discuss my favorite thing of all, exercise!

Make healthy choices.  Love yourself.  And thank you for keeping me In Good Company.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Dear Frustrated: Part 1 (Revised)

I don’t know about you, but I am feeling stuck in a pretty deep and sticky rut.  I am not making any progress, physically, and am getting extremely frustrated with having a closet full of clothes that I can no longer fit my body in.  After a pretty deep bought of depression, I’m in a place where I am feeling so happy with who I am as a person, but am pretty disgusted that my exterior is not matching my interior.

Dear Frustrated (In Good Company Blog)

The words I’m going to share with you are a revised version of a post from March of 2012.  And, to be honest, I need this just as much as you.


I used to, on a weekly basis, receive emails from my girlfriends.  Most generally, in the body of the letter, I find hints of where I used to be, and where I am again now.  I can feel the desperation and the frustration in the words on my screen.  The words I read are ones that many of us have thought or spoken, and the letters could easily be signed "Sincerely, 'Frustrated.'"  Over and over, I read comments such as:

... "my weight hasn't budged" ... "I'm at an all-time high and am so ashamed" ... "I HAVE to get my weight under control or I'll die of embarrassment" ... "I've tried and failed twice at Weight Watchers and once with Atkins because I feel so limited" ... "I feel like you felt, the biggest girl in the room that will never lose weight" ... "HELP!!!!" ... "What is your secret?"... "I have let myself go and in the worse possible way" ... "I need someone to poke me in the butt and make me do it" ... "I tried to cut out carbs, but that lasted about four hours; everything has carbs in it" ... "Can you help me with my struggle?" ... "Portion control is a battle" ... "What did you do to kick start your workout routine?"... "If you have any secrets or anything that would be helpful please let me know" ... "I am ashamed of how I look" ... "I start to count my calories ... but then I feel like I mess up and I quit" ... "I am trying to lose weight, but it is so hard to stay motivated" ... 

My response has always started with, "There is no secret, just a lot of hard work and healthy eating.”   But I began thinking about all of the other women who are struggling, who are beating themselves up on a daily basis, and haven't had the courage to ask for help.

What I want to offer you now is advice, encouragement, and a few tips that I have found helpful along my journey.  I am hoping that this particular set of posts will be a reminder to myself of what I was able to achieve before, encouragement to reach those goals once again, and a tool that I can use to reach several of you at once, though I still welcome any questions or personal requests for encouragement from each and every one of you.

*Just in case any of you decide to take my advice: Please remember that you should always consult your doctor before embarking on your personal healthy living journey.  I am not, and do not claim to be, a dietitian or a personal trainer.  I do, however, know what has worked for me, and have had ample experience with the methods that don't work.*

{Dear 'Frustrated':

- First and foremost, do not be ashamed of how you look.  Believe me, I know what it is like to feel ashamed of your body.  I get it.  I understand seeing women around you who you think look better or are thinner or fancier or prettier; we all do it, and it’s destroying us.  With everything you have inside, try to change your mind about yourself.  Instead of hating your body, try to view it as a gift – a beautiful vessel in which you were given to live in during your time on this green planet we call home.  I read a quote somewhere that said something to the effect of, "Love and respect your body.  You cannot, and will not, love and care for something you hate."

Dear Frustrated (In Good Company Blog)

- Stop it with the "thinspiration" crap.  Do you hear me?  Stop now!  Staring at digitally edited images of malnourished models will not help you.  Because, real life doesn't look at all like Photoshop world.  Your body will always look like your body; only in smaller or larger versions.  Can you create muscle definition and a smaller waistline?  Absolutely.  However, if you were born with the genetics to have strong meaty thighs (like myself), your thighs will always be a larger than your best friend with the chicken-legs.  Sometimes it sucks, but we are not in charge of our genetics.  Your body was designed purposefully for you, from your hairline, to your nose, all the way down to your hips and ankles.  The sooner you understand and accept this, the sooner you will be able to more aptly care for your body.  Theodore Roosevelt said, "Comparison is the thief of joy."  Thanks, Teddy, I couldn't have said it better myself.

- Stop dieting.  The reason that people fail at diets over and over and over and over again is because diets don't work.  They might produce results for a short amount of time, but, most generally, diets are not maintainable.  And, most of the time, they aren't healthy.  It is unhealthy to cut out all carbs.  It is ridiculous to stop eating fruit.  It is horrible (in every sense of the word) to starve yourself.  It is mentally unhealthy (in my opinion) to have to obsess over calculating or cutting points/calories/fat/carbs/gluten all day every day.

Dear Frustrated (In Good Company Blog)

- Forget about diet pills, weight loss pills, magic serums, mystic shakes, wonder wraps, enchanted oils, or super sprinkles.  I hate weight loss products more fiercely than I hate the HCG diet (and that's an awful lot).  They aren't good for you.  When you rev up your metabolism for a short period of time, you are only setting yourself up for a serious crash as soon as you cease taking whatever product you have chosen.  The weight will come back, tenfold.  I promise you.  But more than that, most weight loss products are highly dangerous.  Most are not regulated by the FDA, and many of them contain unsafe ingredients in dangerous amounts.  Even the “all natural” varieties can have severe side-effects (remember that urine, dirt, and snot are “all natural” – but I am not going to drink or inject any of them).  For example, my Aunt Caroline suffered from a stroke, followed by an early death, due to a diet pill that was deemed safe and effective at the time I cannot understand how these weight loss supplements are being legally distributed.

- Get off that stupid scale.  Throw it out the window.  Your weight does not define you!  All of us, from time to time, can get bullied by the numbers that we see on the scale.  Remember that the number on the scale does not accurately reflect what is happening on the inside of your body (we'll dive deeper into this later), especially if you are working hard to build muscle.  If you must insist on continuing to weigh in – please limit it to once a week (shoot for the same day of the week, at the same time each time – i.e.: every Monday morning after breakfast but before your workout).  My heart broke when a close family member disclosed to me that she weighs herself three. times. daily.  There is no reason at all to even go near your scale that often.

- Stop waiting for next month, New Years, Lent, Monday, after the next holiday, the lunar eclipse, after this sports season, your birthday, vacation, etc. to start your journey to healthy living.  You can start right now – right at this very moment.  Even if your last meal was completely awful, your next one could be the start of the new you.  If you keep putting off your start to healthy living, you are just going to continue to push it off until you stop even considering a healthier lifestyle being an option.  I know that I sound like an overly enthusiastic motivational speaker when I say this, but now is the time.  I really believe this.  Today is your day.

Dear Frustrated (In Good Company Blog)

Stay tuned for the revision of Dear Frustrated: Part 2, where I will discuss the specifics of healthy eating.  In the meantime… be healthy, love yourself, and thank you for keeping me In Good Company.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Girdles a.k.a. The 9th Level of Hell

Typically I am not a proponent of girdles.  Stuffing my body into a sweat-inducing hug from the devil himself is not my idea of a good time.  Unfortunately, vanity creates opportunity for poor choices.

Last weekend, I was thrilled to celebrate the wedding of a close friend of the family close family member.  Although I was looking forward to seeing so many familiar faces, I was afraid of judgment that would be cast on my now-chubby body.

So I bought a girdle.  Because I was in a panic and waited until the last possible minute to buy it, I wound up with a style I didn’t want in one size too small – but, hey, more suck-in power, right?

Putting that son-of-a-b^&@h on was like stuffing an entire container of raw Grand’s biscuits into a miniscule airless balloon.  Once the biscuits were stuffed into that ninth level of hell and appropriately adjusted, I shuffled into my dress and off we went.  Besides feeling like my insides were being slowly constricted, things were going well – until I sat down at our table.

The second I sat down, that girdle skirt rolled up my body with an unthinkable speed – much like that of a window shade in a Tom & Jerry cartoon.  Not knowing what the view from behind me could possibly look like, I took my chances of missing the beginning of the ceremony and ran to the bathroom.

Because I’m an idiot, I decided I would quickly use the restroom before the ceremony.  I realized my mistake as soon as the snapping crotch portions were lost in my cleavage and between my shoulder blades.  With one foot balanced on the toilet, and my entire torso upside down I finally reached both portions, snapped them in place, and pulled the Lycra back down over my thighs where it belonged.

I emerged from the stall, covered in sweat, praying that I still had time to get to my seat before the ceremony.  The ceremony and reception took place in a large open structure that was quite echo-y.  I simultaneously observed the open bathroom door and the beginning of the ceremony music – just as I placed my hands underneath the automatic hand dryer.  God forbid it had been a normal hand-dryer – no, this one was powered by a jet engine and was previously used as a tornado siren.

As I snuck out of the bathroom, which was almost directly behind the pulpit, several people shot me a stink-eye.  Everyone rose for the entrance of the beautiful bride, so I took the opportunity to sneak back to my seat, which was as far away as possible.  The short walk down the aisle for the bride created a situation where everyone sat down, just as I was giraffe speed-walking (I hate wearing heels and normal sized steps were not an option since my thighs were practically tied together) down the middle of two rows of tables.

As I sat down, breathless, next to Mr. B, he stifled a laugh and said, “I heard the hand dryer.

The moral of this story is to let your chub be free.  Be lumpy and bumpy and don’t let media standards dictate how and why you feel beautiful.  Because, although the evening was beautiful and I had a wonderful time with my family and watching Little K dance until his feet were sore, I did not have the luxury of peeing again until went home.

Girdle Hell
My sister and I with our families.
Little K was a dancing machine.
I love so much about this photo.  I love that my parents are still so in love.
I love that they dance with one another while wearing proud Grandparents' smiles.
I love that my sweet nephew is such a good big brother to my darling niece.
On the other hand, there is something extremely satisfying about releasing the beast at the end of the night and letting your fat (in Little K’s words) ka-splode into relief.

Because he's adorable.

Skip the girdle.  Wear yoga pants.  Thank you for keeping me In Good Company.

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