Monday, May 30, 2016

The Odyssey Continues - End of May Report

Hello Friends!

It's time for a weight-loss update!  Progress is continuing, albeit still slowly.  For the months of April and May, I've been bouncing around in the same 4-pound range: -41 to -44.  Up and down and up and down.

School ended on Wed, May 25, and I did NOT make my goal of -50; however, on Sunday, May 29, I hit -46 for the first time, and I'm still there today!  Two days in a row at the same new weight is a very good thing!

Officially at WW meetings, I am at -42.  Janet thinks my being stuck for the last 2 months may be the result of stress or lack of sleep.  She offered those two possibilities before I even told her I'd been very stressed out with all the stuff to do at the end of school - and also not sleeping all that well.

Now that I am on vacation, I am walking a lot more.  Last Thurs and Fri, I averaged 10,000 steps a day!  Yesterday I hit more than 8700.  My goal is 10K a day, every day, but I will be happy if I can hit it 4-5 days a week.

I was a little afraid of vacation because I am home with a house full of food.  My strategy is to not buy bad treats at all and to keep the house stocked with healthy options all the time.  If that means going to the store every 3-4 days for fresh fruit, then that is what I will do!

Here are some of my standbys:

  • Rotisserie Chicken - I buy it hot and pull it apart the minute I get home before it cools.  Then I package it in small containers that I can easily grab - white meat separate from the dark meat. If I can snack on protein rather than processed food, that is better for me.
  • Fresh Fruit - I buy the party platters that have watermelon, pineapple, grapes, cantaloupe, muskmelon, etc....  and I also buy bowls of mixed berries.  Kroger has strawberries, blueberries, red raspberries and blackberries - in one bowl all cleaned and ready to eat.  When I get home, I divide them all up into single serving containers. 
  • Salad Bar - I get the biggest container at the salad bar and fill it up with mixed greens and spinach, then I add shredded carrots and a little shredded cheese.  One container like that will last me about 3 days.  
  • Kraft low-fat mozzarella sticks are only 2 pts.  (Some other brands are more, so check before you buy.)  This is also a great protein snack option. 
  • For chocolate treats, I rely on Weight Watchers Ice Cream items and Fiber One brownies and cookies - most of those are 4pts each.  I also discovered that Snackwell Devil's Food Cookies only have 2pts each! YAY!   I allow myself to have 1 chocolate treat after lunch and 1 after dinner.  
  • Triscuit Reduced Fat crackers are also a good treat.  You get 7 crackers for 3 points, and they are filling!  They satisfy the desire for something crunchy and salty.  
  • Avocados are a great healthy choice as well, but they are very high in points because of their high fat content, so one medium avocado is 8 pts (equivalent to about 1 cup, diced) so I am limiting myself to 1 a week.  
One thing I have learned is the importance of eating regularly throughout the day to keep the metabolism going.  My goal is to eat something every 2-3 hours.  If you go more than 3-4 hours without eating anything, your body can think you are starving it and it starts storing fat.  WW suggests 3 meals and 2 snacks: breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner - stop by 8-9 pm, so you are then not eating for about 10-12 hours.  

Ok - it is time to get moving again here.  Thanks for reading and hanging in here with me!  
Come back again soon for more animal and plant photos!


Sunday, May 22, 2016

Nature - What's Not to Love?

Today, Hubs and I had a great adventure at "our" park - Inniswood.  I've shared many photos of plants and animals from there in the past.  I have more to share today.

This afternoon there was a program focused on how to attract hummingbirds.  It was held in the Innis House, and was geared to the 50+ age group.  (Wow - is that really us?)  One of the park naturalists taught us about hummies and how to attract them to yards and feeders.  She had photos and a tiny hummy nest in a box, but then, she said she knew where there was a hummingbird nest and she was going to take us to see it!  WHAT???  How Exciting!!!

Hummies typically lay 2 eggs, and the babies stay in the nest for about 4 weeks.  Mom has to feed them every 20 minutes!!!  Dad is NO help at all.  Some mothers will have 2 nests going at once.  After the first babies are big and sort of filling up nest #1, Mom will start another nest with 2 more eggs.  They typically like small maples, because the thin trunks are too flimsy for racoons to climb.  They also often nest near hawks, because the hawks don't bother with them, and they keep other medium sized birds away.  They rely heavily on spider web strands to start their nests.  The nests are often reused for more than a year if they survive the winter.  The lifespan of a hummingbird is about 7 years, and they often return to the same areas when they come back from their winter in the south.

Here is what we saw:

And, the rhododendrons and some peonies where at peak as well:  

Thanks for visiting!  I'll see you again soon!


Saturday, May 7, 2016

Of "Fluffies" and other fun spring stuff

We have recently started visiting a new park about a mile from home called Highlands Park.  The main part of the park is a huge outdoor pool complex, but off to the side is a wetlands/marsh area with boardwalk trails.  We stopped once just out of curiousity, and within minutes we were hooked.  On our first visit, we saw a Great Blue Heron, so we keep going back looking for "the big guy" and we now have fallen in love with the other fun wildlife.

After the heron, it was the frogs, and then the Mallard duck family with 5 babies, and most recently we've discovered a Canada goose family with 5 babies as well!

Enjoy our photos and videos.  Make sure your sound is on for the videos!

Let's start with "The Big Guy"  - AKA Great Blue Heron:
(These are from different dates from April and May - I assume it is the same bird?)
He really doesn't move enough to take videos of.  These birds are the KINGS of Patience!
.... and I apologize that I can't tell a male from a female. Maybe my Bird Expert Friends
can help me with this...

April 16 was Frog Orgy Day.  This was a total accident - we just happened to stop by on the day all the frogs decided to go CRAZY with their annual spring mating ritual.  They were hard to see in places, but there were times we could see them jumping around.  

Video of Loud Frogs 4-16-16

Next come the ducks.  We have seen LOTS  of Mallards in the area this year.  They have been actively coming to our feeder in the back yard, and there are MANY at the park.  One pair is now raising 5 babies:  

These are the pair we have at home - we have named them Hershel and Matilda.  They come 2-3 times a day - waddling up from the creek behind the house.  They really have personality!

Then there are the geese.  I was so excited to see Goose Fluffies yesterday!  We think we counted 5.  See how many you can find!  We think they are a little younger than the Duck Fluffies.

Video of Goose Fluffies 5-6-16

Here are some general photos of the park:
It really is an oasis in the middle of a very busy neighborhood.

A few more photos from home:

Hope you enjoyed this little romp through nature.  Come back and look for more fun in the days ahead!


Everything Including the Kitchen Sink

Kitchen Remodeling!  Have you ever done it?  If you have, then I suppose you will be able to understand where I am in the process, but this is new to me, and there is a pretty steep learning curve.

During Spring Break (last week of March) I met with my kitchen designer, Robin from Jae Co.  She had recreated my tiny kitchen in her CAD program and was able to show it on a big-screen TV in a conference room.  I felt like I was on one of the HGTV shows like Property Brothers!  There was my little kitchen on TV!

Here are photos of my current kitchen:  Let's start with the sink side:

At the far end, next to the wall, will be a tall tray cabinet for cookie sheets and serving trays. There is currently a tray cabinet there, but it has a permanent shelf in the middle which means all trays need to be turned side-ways, and pizza pans barely fit at all under the shelf.  The new cabinet will not have a shelf in - it will be totally open. 

 Then comes the dishwasher.  Unlike 99.9% of the population, Hubs and I do not use dishwashers.  We never have.  We prefer to do the dishes the old-fashioned way, and it has served us well over the years.  One reason I don't like dishwashers is because I saw how my mother's dishes and glassware were ruined because of the repeated exposure to the extreme heat of the dishwasher.  By the time we were clearing out her house, many of her everyday glasses were cloudy - the clarity was totally gone - and many of her everyday dishes had lost their sparkle.  Another reason we don't like dishwashers is because we don't use very many dishes a day, and it would take days, and all our dishes to fill up the dishwasher for a full-load to run.  That just doesn't make sense to us.  If we cooked a lot of really big meals, or were feeding more people, maybe it would make sense on that level, but not just for the two of us.  Since we've never used our dishwashers, and since we've always lived in places with very small kitchens and not much storage, we've always used our dishwasher for storage.  We keep all of our dishtowels on the top rack, and things like boxes of foil and baggies in the bottom rack.  We have plastic utensils in the silverware holder, and paper napkins right next to that.  

Because I understand the importance of a dishwasher to many home-buyers, I am keeping the space available for a dishwasher to be installed, but my new kitchen will replace the dishwasher with drawers.  There will be a top drawer that will be the same size as the silverware drawers on the other side of the sink, and then there will be 2 deeper drawers below that which will hold the towels and and other supplies that are currently in the dishwasher.  For me, that is a much more efficient use of space.  If/when I ever want to sell the house, I can easily have a dishwasher installed, or make that available to potential buyers.  

The big change to the lower cabinet to the left of the sink will be the installation of pull-out shelves that will be similar to this:

One of the main reasons I am doing this remodel in the first place is because as it is now, my big empty open cabinets are so difficult to access that there is a lot of wasted space in them.  I can't reach to the back of the bottom shelf, and the top shelf is only about half as deep as the cabinet.  That's just not a practical use of space.  These shelves will pull all the way out, allowing me to use all that space and to easily get to everything I put in there.  

Last but not least on the sink side is the end toward the dining room. As you can see in the photo of the current kitchen, there are open shelves at the end.  I have asked for a closed cabinet instead, so the whole thing looks more finished.  I think that space will be more versatile if we can close/hide it.  

Here is the computer rendition of the new cabinets for this side:

You will notice there is a small cabinet just to the left of the sink.  This will have the option of being
used for a trash can if we take out the top sliding drawer.  But we don't have to use it for that.  As it is now, we keep a small trash can under the sink and a larger one in the laundry room which has no laundry equipment.  We want to get a washer and dryer eventually, so we will need a new home for the trash can when we do that.

These cabinets are KraftMaid, and they offer a paper towel holder that goes with the cabinets, so we are getting that.  We will also have under cabinet lighting under both upper cabs, and so there is a light molding around the bottom of the cab to hide that.  The lights will be hardwired into a switch on the wall, and there won't be chords tapes to the underside as there are now.  

All of the drawers will be full-extention and soft close, and the cabinet doors will also be soft close.  There will be one silverware drawer with a two-level removable divided tray.  

The stove side is very similar.  The lower cabinets will also have the pull out drawers.  
Here is a photo of the current kitchen:

And here is the computer drawing of the new version:

I started out wanting the stove to be in the middle with the cabinets on each side the same size, but if we do that, there isn't enough space on either counter for our microwave, so we are keeping it as it is now with the cabinet to the left being larger. On the outside end will be a fake door panel so it matches the door on the end of the sink side.  

We are reducing the size of the range hood by 3" so it is the same size as the stove, which will make the upper cabinets a tad larger on each side.  Then the doors over the hood will be made to take art glass inserts, and that's where I'm going to put my Frank Lloyd Wright Art glass, with lights inside that cabinet.  I think this might be the part I am the most excited about.  

Now to my sink.  I have decided on a Karran quartz composite sink in bisque.  Here is the design:

Still to be chosen is the faucet fixture, and all the cabinet hardware.  I am doing homework on those items now.  I know I want my hardware to be Mission Style, and I have toyed with the idea of having each knob or pull in a different design just for fun, but that might get a bit pricey.  Some cool knobs I have found are $35 and since I am going to need about 24 items, that might be over-the-top.  

I also need to buy a new garbage disposal, and I'm leaning toward one of the new models of In-sink-er-ator.  What I've read on line about them sounds really good!

Here again is a photo of the samples of backsplash, countertop and door color (not style):
The cabinets will be oak and stained in a shade called "Fawn".  The counter is Silestone Quasar.

We are keeping our appliances, and the flooring isn't changing, Right now, this is all scheduled to start happening on July 11.  I still need to order and pay for the cabinets, counter and backsplash, then get the other stuff to have here for the crew.  Some of the old cabinets are going to be installed in the garage (uppers from sink side, and lowers from stove side) for use with gardening supplies and other garagy stuff. 

So, that's where we are in this process.  Whew!  Excuse me while I browse the internet for fabulous, and inexpensive hardware!  I look forward to posting photos of the process and the finished product.  Stay tuned!