Adventures in Nature: Strawberry Picking

This weekend we were able to take a trip out into the country side to do one of my favorite activities: strawberry picking! We’ve gone a few times before and I can never get over how unbelievably delicious the strawberries are straight off the vine. I’m hoping that we will be growing our own next year but for this year, heading out to the farm will have to do!

Strawberry Fields at Hollin Farms

We packed into the car first thing on Saturday and drove an hour outside of DC to Hollin Farms. It was a somewhat gloomy day, with rain rolling in throughout the afternoon, but it made for great conditions for picking.  We didn’t have to worry about sweating or sunburns and we got a delicious haul!

Check out those babies

We had some straight up and used some for a fun project that I’ll tell you about later this week.

What were you up to on this long weekend?

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The One Minute Rule

 

image via pinterest

Now I know what you’re all thinking. The one minute rule isn’t a thing. The five second rule is (although apparently science has debunked that one). But this tip had nothing to do with dropping food (unless you tend to put off picking that food up and sanitizing the floor).

I mentioned earlier this week that I found a few tips from the Happier podcast to be helpful. One of those tips was easy to start: make the bed everyday. It seemed like a pain at first but it doesn’t take long and it does feel nicer to climb into bed after the bed time alarm goes off if the sheets are evenly spread out and tucked in.

The big change that I made was instituting the one minute rule. It’s actually a small change made repeatedly and it’s a pretty simple device to use to keep your life in order. If you are standing in your house contemplating doing something that would take just one minute, go ahead and do it.

Opening the mail and throwing away the junk mail. Wiping down the counter while you wait for the pot of water to boil. Putting your shoes in their proper spot instead of letting them pile up by the door. Unloading the dishwasher. Folding your clothes right out of the dryer (does anyone else struggle with this one?!). Do them. Stop putting those tasks off and do them immediately.

If I’ve learned one thing about bad habits it’s that they pile up easily. Much like crap in your house or car or on your desk. The one minute rule stops that before it can happen. It seems strange to say that something so small has made such a difference but it really has.

Try it for just one week and see what happens. Just don’t go crazy with it. If you’re one minute turns into 30, then you’re just cleaning.

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On Creating Routines


There is something to be said for habits. I have always been fascinated by how habits can help or hurt us without us even realizing it. I tend to collect bad habits like they’re going out of style but find it a little more tedious to get into good habits like continually tidying up, planning out my day in an organizer, or forcing myself to practice something difficult (Spanish Rosetta Stone I’m looking at you).

People often say that the hardest part of any change is taking the first step. Personally, I have always found this to only be semi-true. The first few days of any routine seem easy enough. You’re filled with motivation and excitement. Getting up early, making healthy food choices, working out, tidying up regularly. All of these habits are easier for me the first few days. Then, at the first wrench in my plans, I find that I haven’t actually made a real habit. I’ve just made a temporary change and immediately fall back into the old routine.

I’ve taken some steps recently to try to really form good habits, since I know that I can easily make bad ones. I started listening to the “Happier” podcast while getting ready for work in the morning. The podcast features author Gretchen Rubin and her sister Elizabeth discussing forming healthy habits to make your life easier. I also checked Gretchen’s newest book out from the library (hello free!). While I have found the podcast interesting sometimes, the book was not compelling enough to keep my interest, so I gave up on it which was actually a win in and of itself. Wasting time doing something that doesn’t make me happy isn’t a good habit to be in, so I returned the book and moved on.

The podcast though provided a few good tips. I’ll mention the best tip later this week, but one of the tips I’ve found most helpful is setting a sleep alarm. A few days a week I get up early to workout, but then I was allowing myself to sleep much later on other days (think 5am v 7am or 7:30am). That constant bouncing back and forth was wrecking my internal clock and making me miserable by the end of the week. Now every night at 9pm I get an alarm on my phone reminding me to start winding down for the day. By 10pm I should be in bed to make sure I can wake up within an hour of wakeup time everyday (meaning I adjust to 5am on workout days and 6am otherwise).

There are lots of reasons to wake up early beyond trying to stop a whiplash effect like I was getting. Forbes has a list of reasons to get up early. The Daily Mail (take that for what it’s worth) also wrote recently about the health benefits of a consistent sleep cycle – namely a smaller waist. I have to figure that if I’m getting up early to workout some days in the week to ensure I fit it into my schedule, I may as well try to not counteract it by sleep rebounding the next day.

It’s a new habit but one that I am trying to really nurture this month. I’ve noticed that I’m finding it easier to ignore the call of dumb tv shows and get into bed when I am consistently waking up early. With that said, I have yet to figure out a routine for how to spend my time once I’m up since I’m really only on day 5 of this experiment and I didn’t do terribly well over Labor Day (1 our of 3 days). I also have to be on the quiet side since the Mr. and I share a pretty small living space currently and I don’t want to force him into my wakeup schedule. I’ve been utilizing the scheduler on the coffee maker and trying to read and enjoy the morning quiet. I’ve also considered throwing in a low key yoga routine some mornings. Trial and error should show me what works best for my morning routine but I’m hoping that extra time in the morning can translate into a happier mindset, an increase in health, and more creative pursuits to showcase on the blog!

What is your morning routine like? Could it use some tweaks as well or do you have insight to share?

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Planning to save

When we first got engaged, I thought we could plan our entire wedding for less than $10,000. I would love for us to have a big wedding in front of an old tree in our backyard. Unfortunately we live in an apartment, so that’s not an option. 

With that in mind, we started sending out inquiries to different venues and were shocked by the cost. Some places wanted $10,000 for an empty room! So we adjusted our expectations and our spending.

I mentioned yesterday that I paid off a credit card bill that had been nagging me for months. I don’t go out too much but I instilled a few practices to cut down on my costs to really attack my balance. I knew if I could get that paid off then I could really focus on saving for the wedding, so it became goal #1.

Full disclosure: I made one large payment to kick things off by taking from a savings account. I had gotten a small raise at my old job and had direct deposit send the difference between my old pay and my new pay ($90) to a savings account every paycheck. That savings account wasn’t making much interest and my credit card did charge interest, so I made the decision to clean it out and make a payment. 

So how did I cut my costs? I started by going to my mint.com account and examining my habits. I was spending way too much on food, the receipts proved it. I also saw a pretty great segment on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. You can watch it Here and be prepared to be sad.

How do I cut down on food cost and waste? Planning!

The most important step to planning is honesty. I knew I spent more on food during the week primarily due to boredom and over sleeping. If I’m home then I am totally capable of pulling together a good healthy breakfast, but my monthly total of receipts from Protein Bar showed that oversleeping and rushing out of the house led me to spend between $30 and $50 a month, at least. 

This is where it gets creative. Sugary cereals make me feel like crap and I can only eat so many bagels before my pants don’t fit. So I needed healthy options that were quick and easy. 

I sometimes make protein pancakes in the weekend when I have more time to get something together. I love the taste but don’t have the time during the week. Enter protein waffles!

  
On Sunday nights, I spend a few minutes preparing a batch of waffles for the week using my favorite protein powder (Perfect Fit) as the base. In the morning I simply toast, top with 100% maple syrup, and eat. Quick, delicious, healthy, and cheap. Exactly what I need! Here’s the recipe: 

?3 scoops perfect fit vanilla 

?2 small bananas (about 4.5 inch each) 

? 4 tablespoons almond milk 

? 3/4 cup egg white 

? 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

? 2 tablespoons almond meal 

? 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour 

? 1 teaspoon baking powder 

? half teaspoon cinnamon

I also give myself two days a week where I bring a smoothie to work (usually the days I over sleep). I bought this thermos and a pack of smoothie straws and simply blend some Perfect Fit with almond milk and frozen berries. We go picking every year and end up with delicious fresh berries in quantities that we can’t finish, so we freeze them and make amazing smoothies later. It’s weird to say but the straws make all the difference!

For lunches, the Mr and I pick out a few recipes for the week trying to tiling similar ingredients so we don’t waste herbs, double up the recipes, cook on Sunday, and simply grab and go during the week.  Here’s a sample week:

 
Salads with sweet potatoes and homemade honey mustard dressing and stuffed bell peppers. We each have two of each and then usually leftovers from a dinner once a week.

Interestingly, I’ve saved a good deal of money over the past few months planning my meals like this and starting my day with a protein heavy breakfast has helped me drop 6lbs! I’m happier with how my clothes fit again and am less tempted to go shopping as a result. It’s a nice chain reaction just from trying to save money.

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On being a grownup…

go be it

I often joke with friends that I’m pretty sure at some point I’m going to wake up, realize that I’m 65 years old, and I will finally feel like an adult. I know I’m not alone in feeling as though I’m slightly unprepared for the situations that I find myself in. The constant narrative from Boomers tends to be that Millenials presume themselves as adults and want all the success with none of the working for it. Beyond my protests over being lumped in with people 10 years younger than me (who were quite literally raised in a different world than I was due to technological innovations), I can’t help but think that for most of us 35 and under, the Boomers couldn’t be more wrong.

The majority of people I know have dealt with Imposter Syndrome in their work. For those lucky few who are unfamiliar, when you have imposter syndrome you don’t feel as though you have really earned your spot. You shouldn’t have the higher ranking job because you don’t have the qualifications. You go through your days worried that someone will find out that you are in over your head. If you had a theme song, it would be “Over My Head” by the Fray.

I can’t say that I really had imposter syndrome, but I certainly identify with parts of it. I’ve had conversations with colleagues wondering when we would get the memo on how to look like a grownup. Think: “so and so is so grownup and professional looking… I just feel like I’m somehow still in high school.” My nail polish always seems to chip. I’m pretty incapable of not having wrinkles in my clothes (seriously how do people manage that!?) Let’s not touch on the clutter situation. It wasn’t so much imposter syndrome about my abilities, but adult imposter syndrome on my ability to be a grownup.

In reality, I shouldn’t feel like a kid. I have a graduate degree. My best friend has a kid. Actually, a lot of my friends have kids. Another one just had a baby yesterday! I’m not a kid by any stretch of the imagination, but I just kept thinking that the grownup part of my life was going to happen as a turning point and I would notice it. All of the seemingly perfect lives I’ve seen plastered across blogs and Facebook only serve to make it seem as though everyone has it together and you just don’t yet.

I think I have used the excuse of “eventually growing up” for a while as an easy out for not fully applying myself. I’ve had a lot of change in the past few months. The Mr. had a mystery illness for a few months which created a lot of stress and worry in our lives. Then within the scope of 3 days I had quit my job for a much better job with far more responsibility and I got engaged to the love of my life who I have been with long enough that we could have a child in school. I’ve paid off my credit card (which I was quite embarrassed to have a balance on), set up a new retirement account, and started planning a wedding that will inevitably be the most expensive thing I’ve ever paid for. It’s been a lot to take in and it has actually provided a lot of clarity for me.

All of a sudden I don’t feel so stuck and I sort of, kind of, maybe feel like I’m grown. I liked my old job. I had fantastic coworkers. I worked on an area that I felt incredibly passionate about. I did some pretty cool things and helped make some pretty legitimate changes in policy for people across the country. But I had reached a point where I couldn’t advance further. I was stifled, and it stifled every aspect of my life.

Totally shifting my life around has really provided a great opportunity to look at things fresh. I’m cleaning out my life, my closet, and my mind from things holding me back. I’ve recently started some great habits and I am finally realizing that if I want to feel like a grown up woman who gets things done, then I need to act like one.

It took me until this weekend, when I finally paid off that damn credit card, to really have the realization that I feel different. So I figured a new blog look was in order. I’m working on building my own site eventually, but for now this will do. Here’s to creating the reality that we want.

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Kitchen Creation: buttermilk donuts

Nothing starts the weekend off better than a homemade treat. 

This weekend the Mr. and I decided to break out the old donut pan and get to work. After searching high and low, or the Internet as it were, we settled on a buttermilk donut recipe from Health.com.

The recipe was easy to follow and only required one ingredient that we didn’t have on hand (buttermilk). They didn’t look like much coming out of the oven, but they smelled divine, so we were pumped. 
 

they are done, they just dont look like it
 
  
We glazed half with a lemon glaze, which the Mr seemed to enjoy, and left them to cool. I’ve been trying to cut sugar out of my daily diet, with the exception of a random planned treat here and there, so the glaze seemed a little too sweet for me.

  
We each he’s grabbed a donut, with black coffee for me, and settled in to watch Wet Hot American Summer: Firat Day of Camp on Netflix. Our weekends may not be filled with adventure these days, we do have a wedding to pay for after all, but it works for us.

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Kitchen creation: Easy slow cooker pork

Some days you wake up and just know you won’t want to cook dinner that night. If I’m being honest that’s me many week nights. 

 As a result I’ve become pretty obsessed with my slow cooker. There’s nothing better than getting close to your apartment and smelling your delicious dinner all ready to go. 

A few days ago I had the slow cooker bug and wanted to use up some of the herbs from my garden. The result: roasted pork with white wine and sage.

I started by putting a large pork piece in the slow cooker. Then I added 4 or 5 garlic cloves ( I just finished up what I had left from a bulb), a heavy sprinkling of salt and pepper, sage from the garden and a small bottle of white wine. 

I keep a four pack of small white wine bottles in the house at all times for situations like this. I don’t want to use my good drinking wine to cook and don’t want to waste a big bottle if I don’t have a chance to finish it quickly.

Here’s what it looked like when we left the house in the morning at about 8:30am:

   

When I arrived home after work at 5:30pm my entire apartment smelled divine. Garlic and wine are a pair for a reason. This is what the end result looked like before we took it out:

  

After letting the pork rest for about 5 minutes out of the cooker, we went at it with two forks to serve up for dinner. With some of the juices spooned over, this pork was exactly the type of meal you want to come home to. Warm, premade, healthy, and delicious!

 

We served it with some brown rice in the side and a salad (gotta get my greens). It was just the meal I needed to mix things up. You can only have chicken for dinner so many times in a week before you just get sick of eating. 

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Life revisited 

  
I can’t believe that I have gone so long without posting. That said, I’ve had a decent excuse (or 10). 

The Mr was dealing with some health concerns that scared me to an extent I didn’t think possible. Luckily he’s feeling better now, but it was a rough go. 

In happier news: I switched jobs. The excitement gave way to nervousness and now I am just very busy working away for a great new company. I’m lucky in that I switched from a place with great coworkers to another place with great coworkers. It’s been a real transition, but it’s been challenging only in the best of ways. 

Then I went and got engaged! The Mr is finally going to be my actual Mr in a little over a year. We’ve been busy trying to start the planning so it’s been a bit of a whirlwind. 

As things settle down I am excited to sit down and plan out some posts. It’s simply been too long and I need a creative outlet in my life! 

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Midweek evaluations

IMG_2949

Sometimes you are laying in bed and you think “at least it’s Saturday.”

Then you realize that it’s actually Wednesday and you have to get up and go to work. Oops.

The week is half over so it seems like a great chance to to reassess if we are all getting closer to accomplishing our goals.

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How to get water stain out of a wood table

Every once in a while something happens that makes you feel like a total moron. Not only do you feel dumb, you feel totally alone in your stupidity. Clearly no one else has managed to do this right? I had one of these epic meltdowns recently when I went to move something on our kitchen table and found this:

photo-13

That dear friends and readers, is a giant water stain. We had placed some flowers in a vase that I purchased from Target and put it on the table for a few days. While that may seem like a totally normal thing to do with a vase, apparently Target sometimes sells vases that shouldn’t actually hold water, as this one just leaked water under the base until the table was actually warped and stained.

To make matters worse, we have such a small place right now that this is our only table. As in when I want to sew? This table. The Mr works from home at this table. We eat dinner together at this table (sometimes..). So clearly this was a high stress situation.

I immediately took to Google to try to find out how I could possibly fix this, or at least mend it slightly. A large number of articles recommended putting mayonnaise on the stain. That sounded easy enough, except for the fact that we don’t keep mayo in the house since neither of us like it all that much. I kept looking until I found a solution that I could try with things I already owned (and planned to purchase some mayo later).

Bob Villa recommended a few different solutions. I was happy to see that the first solution involved a cotton towel and an iron. I own both of those! I took to the table with my warmed iron (Bob recommends low but I put my rather weak iron on medium) and slowly pressed down hoping that the water would evaporate out of the wood. After about 10 minutes here are the results:

photo-12

Not bad right?! The stain is still slightly raised but the difference is like night and day. The color is almost completely gone and to the naked eye you would never know that there was once a big stain right in the middle of the table.

I was so happy to see that the table wasn’t a complete wash. We are talking about talking about saving for a house right now and the thought of sinking money in to a new table when we don’t know where we’ll be living this time next year was just too sad to contemplate. So if you find yourself in a similar situation (and if so, my sympathies), try the iron trick and don’t be afraid to bump the iron heat up slightly! I used a towel so I think that protected my table as well.

Have a great week everyone!

 

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