Getting back in the game: sewing a throw pillow on a whim

Between a new job, wedding planning, and a move to a new apartment, I haven’t had much time for pursuits of my hobbies. I reached a point last week where I had to leave work early out of sheer exhaustion and I realized something had to change. I decided that I’m sick of running around constantly, ignoring the part of myself that actually makes me happy: my creative side.

I attended my first dance class in months last week and it felt like I was finally myself again (or a very inflexible version of myself). I took Friday off from work and decided to really spend some time this weekend tackling some projects on my list. Most importantly, I decided that I HAD to sew something. It had simply been too long.

I had some extra fabric laying around that I had always envisioned as a good fabric for a pillow. While I had never made a pillow before, I figured it couldn’t be too hard. After a quick trip to Joanns to get a pillow, I was ready to wing it.

  
I started by placing the pillow on the fabric and using my rotary cutter to cut a rectangle slightly larger that the pillow to allow for seam allowances. 

Then I doubled it (and straightened out the wonky shape a little)

  
After cutting out both sides, I pinned three sides together

  
And got to sewing. Once I had the three sides sewn, I tried the pillow inside to see if it would fit:

  
It was pretty much a perfect fit! I was feeling pretty confidant. Then, I realized I didn’t know how to sew it closed with the pillow inside… Awkward.

After brainstorming for a few minutes, buttons seemed like the logical (and only) solution. Luckily I had a few in my sewing supply box, so after picking a few out and guessing where I’d like them, I marked by placement with tailor’s chalk and finished the edges:

  
I was ready for the buttons. There was only one problem, I had no idea how to use the button hole foot on my sewing machine. After a few minutes with the manual and a phone call with my mom where I made sure NOT to mention the pillow for fear of jinxing it, I gave it a shot. 

  
I don’t know how they used to make button holes, but oh man was this easier than I thought it was going to be! Infused with confidence, I added 5 more button holes and sewed on the buttons on the other side. The final product looked like this:

 

not totally even spacing but no one should be looking!

 
  
  
I was so proud of myself, despite my obvious lack of planning of how to close the case. I feel like this is a better solution since we can take the case off and wash it if needed (and with my track record of spilling things, it will be needed)! 

  
I think this was the perfect project to get me back in the game! I’m looking forward to burning through more of my fabric stash and getting some projects done. Nothing feels better than walking in to your house and knowing that you made something there. 

 
It makes our new couch seem so much more special to me! I still have some of the fabric left so hopefully I can make a mate for this little guy this weekend! 

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.