The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell. I finally finished this and am still digesting. I went in very aware of the medical and health benefits of a plant-based diet, but not convinced it has to be 100% vegan to reap the benefits. I’m still not convinced, and think a mostly plant-based diet is enough. It would take a much longer review to describe the parts of this book I’m still not convinced about, so I might just save it for that, a full review. I’m working on a post about why I don’t eat Paleo, so I’ll have to save it for after that.
Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand. I’ve been “reading” this by listening to the unabridged audio for quite a while now, and reached the end of it last month. It’s a bit chilling in some parts, to hear a possible scenario of what could happen when the “looters” in a society try to enslave the “producers” and thinkers with excessive taxation and redistribution of wealth. I feel in some ways we are heading toward this future. I certainly can’t review the book with any justice in this little post, but I’d recommend it to anyone.
The Joy of Less: A Minimalist’s Guide to Living, by Francine Jay. I love reading minimalist books and inspiration. Ever since we started our 4 moves in 20 months to get us to the (hopefully) long-term home we’ve now settled in, I have been on a mission to declutter and streamline our possessions. I feel I’ve made a lot of progress in that time, but now that we are settled I don’t want the creep of more Stuff to slowly seep into our house. So reading this was good prophylaxis. The author covers many practical ways to lead a simpler life that’s less hemmed in by possessions. I pretty much skipped all the excessive talk about recyling at the end, though. It got a little hippie for me.
I bought the package of Ebooks that was floating around the blogs a couple weeks ago, like 100 of them for 29 dollars. There were a couple I’d been considering so I went ahead and bought it. Glad I did. So far I’ve read these:
Simple Blogging by Rachel Meeks. Lots of good ideas that help streamline the writing life and inspire me to use my time well.
Your Blogging Business by Nikki Hughes. Great info on handling taxes as a blogger.
100 Pound Loser by Jessica Heights. A memoir of sorts and a motivational tool.
How to Grow Your Blog and Manage Your Home by Jacinda Vandenburg. Some good points too.
I’m still slodging through The Aeneid, and started The Great Gatsby audiobook to listen to while on the treadmill, since its starting to get to hot for a pregnant lady to run outside. I’ve read it before and must again before I see the movie.
I’m linking this post to Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Twitterature Link -up.
I have to admit, knowing this post lurked at the end of the week kept my habits in check during several weak moments (although unfortunately Wednesday wasn’t one of them…). Which is why I’m starting Fit Fridays–to increase accountability in daily calorie logging and exercise. I use the MyFitnessPal app on my smartphone and ipad to keep track of my intake. I have it set to “maintain” my current weight, which calculates a daily calorie allotment of 2120 cal/day for me. I doubt I’ll have a problem going over it enough to gain my goal 11-20 pounds of pregnancy, so knowing the maintenance calorie goal will help keep me in check. Here’s how this week went:
Thursday, May 2–Decided to start a day early for this first week, to take advantage of the momentum. I ate 1571 calories, 30 minutes running (very slow! 14:30 minute miles)
Friday, May 3–ate 1566 calories, walked for 1 hour 15 minutes, leisurely pace (took the kids to the zoo!)
Saturday, May 4–ate 2691 calories (ouch!–mexican restaurant for lunch and pizza for dinner adds up!)–was going to run but then it rained : ( so I did a few calisthenics: 20 plie squats, 20 standard squats, 40 pushups
Sunday, May 5– I ate 1340 calories, and did squats and lunges and tricep dips outside for 30 minutes while the kids played. I must have eaten more than what I logged, I know I wasn’t hungry, so I’m guessing I left something out.
Monday, May 6–I ate 1657 calories, and jogged for 30 minutes slowly–about 14’15” miles. Thankfully, the weather has been unseasonably cool. Normally, by this point in May, we are hitting the 80′s on the thermometer every day, if not 90′s. But we’ve really been staying in the 60′s, even 50′s a couple days. So I’ve been able to continue jogging outside, which has been fantastic. Once the temps stay high, I won’t be able to run outside, since I can’t risk getting overheated while pregnant. And I won’t jog on my treadmill while pregnant, since I’m paranoid about losing my balance on it and falling. So basically that means that once the heat arrives I’ll have to just do a brisk walk, or even an inclined walk, on the treadmill. I’ll be bummed to stop jogging.
Tuesday–I ate 1832 calories. Did 30 minutes of weightlifting focusing on my arms.
Wednesday–Well. This is when some kind of cold hit our house. I woke up with something of a sore throat, which worsened as the day continued. My husband called on his way home from work and he was feeling pretty bad by that point too. He said he’d pick up some stuff at the store for me, which ended up meaning ice cream and cookies. I won’t say I complained. In fact, I just didn’t log. I justified the evening by telling myself I was pregnant, sick and exhausted. Should have just gone to sleep early and saved myself from the splurging. Didn’t work out today.
Thursday-Felt a bit better today–woke up determined to log everything and focus on taking in a lot of fluids. At lunch I ate chicken noodle soup, which I seriously feel could rival antibiotics when I feel this way. Just had dubliner (irish) cheese and crackers at dinner, but logged everything. Ate 1785 calories today. Still not up to working out.
Friday, May 10–Well, the heat is here. Brought the kids outside to play, and couldn’t do squats or anything while they played like I usually like to do because I knew the heat would get to me. During nap time I hit the treadmill at a fast pace while listening to The Great Gatsby audiobook on my iphone. Then I did maybe 20 minutes of weights and body weight exercises. Trying to build up my push-ups. At 50 right now (broken up in sets of course), though I’m not sure how they will go when my belly gets bigger. Today I ate 2179 calories (which included a few cookies just now…).
I look back at the week and see I’m under goal for most of the days. But I still managed to gain a pound, which is OK right now, but couldn’t do it every week. I need to be sure I’m not forgetting to log the little bites here and there I might have missed logging.
They sat for years in an aging farmhouse, which many purported to be haunted by the ghost of Jesse James. The house had been furnished with hundreds of beautiful antiques of all kinds, which my grandparents had collected for decades and carefully maintained. They planned to retire in the idyllic home, and summered there for years from their Little Rock home where they still cared for my great-grandmother at the time.
Every June or July, my siblings and parents would make the long treck across the Southeast, through cotton fields and horse farms to spend a week with them at the old, white farmhouse. Sure, we all knew about the legends that surrounded the remote property. Jesse had been rumored to have hidden his missing fortune somewhere in the house or on the grounds, and there were many nights the old floorboards creaked loudly despite no one walking by. Papaw told us of the night when he heard the distinct rattling of chains crossing the darkened front porch and moving into the parlor. He’d heard it many a night before, and was tired of being bothered by it. My Ma-maw was fast asleep, so he spoke into the dark stillness of the echoing rooms.
“Jesse. Now you listen here. I’m gonna make a deal with you. I’m not going to look for your gold. I won’t bother with it. But you leave us alone and quit pestering us. Deal?”
He was answered by nothing but the wind. The wind and maybe leaves rustling outside under the large magnolia. But nothing more. Either way, that was the last night he heard from old Jesse’s ghost. He’d made a deal, he told us kids, and he was going to stick with it. Of course that didn’t stop us from searching for the legended treasure every summer we visited. We even brought a metal detector one year, searching the old salt house and barn, the storm shelter and even the cow pasture. We never found much of anything, other than old arrowheads and a couple of civil war relics.
A decade passed and somewhere along the way we all got older, and didn’t make it out to Tennessee as much. Ma-maw and Pa-paw had always planned to retire there, but they were still needed in Little Rock, so they covered all the beautiful antiques in white sheets and asked neighbors to keep an eye on the place for them. They’d go years between visits.
When I married my husband, we had a largely empty house, and Ma-maw and Pa-paw offered me some of the furniture, specifically a dining room table and some chairs among other things. It seemed like quite a trek for us, but we took a week and went out to visit them in Little Rock first, then swung by the old property on the way back to South Carolina.
We didn’t intend to get there after dark, but that’s what happened. The lights weren’t working in some parts of the house, a thick layer of dust had settled on all the sheets, and mouse droppings and cobwebs were scattered through the rooms. Hulking forms of sheet-draped furniture filled the place, and I’ll go ahead and tell you we ended up staying in a hotel that night rather than brave the old farmhouse. In any case, the generous gift of chairs, a beautiful marble topped dressor, a dining room table, and the old baroque piano (which was being slowly destroyed by dampness and mold in the abandoned house), made it back to South Carolina, and have moved with us into our current house.
They are my most treasured pieces of furniture, but the chairs needed reuphostering and the old castors replacing. I waited until we settled in our long term home, and made a room design with Darlene’s help before choosing the fabric, which I adore. A local guy did a fine job on the upholstery. He put on some new castors I’d ordered, but after a few days it was clear: the aging wood of the legs just wouldn’t hold them in. So I had to come up with a different solution. What I wanted were brass claw feet, but haven’t been able to find them anywhere - online or otherwise.
Then I remembered the piano bench we’d odered on Etsy and recovered to match the chairs. It was a couple inches too tall. The little feet had the perfect design at their tips, a natural place for me to saw off the feet without anyone knowing the difference. Said feet matched the height I needed on the previously castored feet of my chairs perfectly. So, after removing the piano bench feet, I drilled hole in the end of each, insterted a peice of dowel and secured with wood glue, then gilded each foot.
Finally, each dowel slipped right into the hole previously used for castors on my old chairs. A dap of wood glue here and there and viola: stable chairs that don’t fall apart when you sit on them.
They will live in our great room. I love how they turned out, both useful and beautiful, with a good ghost story they tell to boot.
“God wants to change us into people who are truly noble; people who reflect an unswerving confidence in who He is that equips us to face all of life and still remain faithful. God wants us to be courageous people, who are deeply bothered by the horrors of living as part of a fallen race, people who look honestly at every struggle, who feel overwhelmed by what we see, yet emerge prepared to live. Scarred, still troubled, but deeply loving…When the fact is faced that life is profoundly disappointing, the ony way to make it is to learn to love. And only those who are no longer consumed with finding satisfaction now, are able to love. Only when we commit our yearnings for perfect joy to a Father we have learned to deeply trust, are we free to live for others, despite the reality of a perpetual ache.”
I’m settling into the second trimester and the nesting bug has bitten. I’m all about getting the house set up, finishing decorating projects, knocking out some business stuff for the free clinic I volunteer in, and over-all tackling of the “to-do” list. I love getting into this productive zone after a few months earlier in the pregnancy spent curled up incubating and frankly, surviving. But in the midst of all this energetic bustle, I don’t want to lose sight of my fitness goals.
(My current favorite running shoes. I just bought a new pair of Neon pink nikes I’ve been using for walking but still prefer these Brooks for my runs.)
I’d fallen just below the BMI range labeled “obese,” then entered this pregnancy still in the overweight range. What this means: lots of caution with my weight gain! I talked it over with my OB and we settled on a goal of gaining at or less that 20 pounds for this pregnancy. If you keep up with this sort of thing, ACOG released updated weight-gain guidlines within the last couple years that are adjusted based on the mother’s starting BMI. Basically, women who enter pregnancy with extra weight just don’t need to gain as much as normal weight women. Obviously, all this must be talked over with your own OB-GYN, and don’t forget my disclaimer as you read this and every post on my blog.
In any case, earlier this week and last, my healthy eating slid off track. I had cravings for sweets that seemed overpowering at the time. I made an angel food cake, ate more chocolate than I should have, and sorta kinda ignored my calorie counting app I rely on to keep me honest. And then I ignored the scale for a few days.
You might read this and think that’s not a big deal–so what if I don’t write down everything I eat and weigh daily. Are we really supposed to weigh daily anyway? Well, for me, those are two of the three pillars of my strategy in keeping my pregnancy weight gain within its limits. Both detailing every bite in MyFitnessPal app and checking in with my scale every morning keep me from overindulging during the day. The knowledge that one massive salty, fatty restaurant meal can show up on the scale in form of several pounds the next morning stops me dead in my tracks.
Now, during active weight loss, some people do better weighing in only once or twice a week–otherwise they get discouraged if they don’t see the scale move down every day (when day-to-day plataues are frequent and sometimes it takes a few days to see a change), and give up. But for weight maintenance and situations like pregnancy, I find daily weighing to be the best strategy.
So back to the cravings. People like to talk as though pregnant woman are faced with no choice when they have a craving, that they might go into some rabid state until they indulge in whatever item they desire to consume. This is not true. There is no need to embrace the philosophy that pregnancy is a time to let the stops out and eat whatever you want, whenever you want, in the name of cravings! Of course everyone around you loves to tell you to “Go ahead, you are eating for two, after all,” as if you need to double your calorie intake! Just tune them out. Next time someone offers you a slice of chocolate cake and says “You’re pregnant–just enjoy it,” I’ve found a good response is to smile and say, “Yes, thank-you. I am pregnant, so its doubly important I make healthy choices for my developing child and myself.” Perhaps its just here in the deep south, but everyone loves to shove food, and not necessarily the healthy sort, in the direction of the pregnant lady in the room. It’s like they think its the best way to show you their love and support when you are with child. By all means, be gracious and thankful for what people are trying to do, but be honest about your goals, and they will stop!
In dealing with cravings for stuff that’s not so good, find a better alternative that satisfies what you want. Think about the qualities of what you crave: crunchy or creamy, sweet or savory, and work hard to have options that fit the bill and satisfy your craving in the best way. See that fruit bowl up at the top of this post? That isn’t even a third of the fruit I brought home from the store last week, and it’s almost already gone. I was craving sweet and sour, and found chilled grapes fit the bill (better than the Nerds candy that crossed my mind!).
My 3 Steps to a Fit Pregnancy and keeping Weight Gain within the Guidlines for your BMI (as discussed with your OB):
1. Track calories daily
2. Weigh daily
3. Exercise an average of 30 minutes daily.
Anyway, to keep myself a bit more accountable to exercising daily and tracking calories daily, I’m going to post my weekly record of daily calorie counts and exercise log here every friday, along with some fitness thoughts for the week. I’ll be calling it Fit Fridays. Feel free to leave your own weekly log in the comments each Friday (whether you are pregnant or not, these are great habits to maintain), and if people are interested I’ll start an official link-up down the road.
So meet back here next Friday for the first in the FIT FRIDAY series!
Once we closed on our new house, the first thing we did was have the kitchen demolished to the studs. The layout was just not ideal. A huge wet-bar dominated a lot of space, and all the cabinets were old enought to basically be falling apart. To top it off, half the appliances didn’t work. Since we had a few months before we’d move in, we renovated a LOT: moved walls and all. Here’s the before:
That built-in desk on the left in the front was torn out, and the wall it faces moved back about 3 or 4 feet, then a space created for a massive double wide fridge. The whole kitchen gained a lot of workroom, though you can’t quite tell from the angle of these pictures.
I live in the beautiful state of South Carolina, and I wanted this space to remind me of our favorite city, Charleston. I lived there for a decade, met my husband there, became a doctor there, a mother there, saw amazing things. So the brick, the aged bronze hardware, the already well-worn butcher block, the shaker-style cabinets—they all bring me back to that old holy city.
And yes, I really chop things right on that island counter. It’s a Boos butcher-block. I love the way all the different fruits and veggies I’ve prepped on every inch of its surface leave just the slightest tinge of color behind. The marks of a thousand meals already beautify it’s surface. I baby it with mineral oil every weekend and it rewards me with plenty of space to spread out. Maybe I’m like Edie in that I like my counters to tell something of the story of the people who worked over them. Chopping lots of produce has been key to my big weight-loss and trasition to a more plant-based diet. Setting up the right space for it has been key.
Speaking of Edie, I’m linking this post up to her home projects. Actually, she and I have a lot in common. We’re both doctors and I’m also mostly at home to raise my kids, we both embrace our Southern-ness, I’m also starting classical homeschooling this fall, and we both used Darlene’s help in designing our homes–(Darlene helped me pick the wall and ceiling colors in the kitchen, by the way!) Edie once joked about practicing medicine in the back of a van. I laughed when I read that post, but totally knew where she was coming from, as I’d just quit my 80-hour workweek job. But now, well–I actually do that very thing! I started last year seeing patients in a mobile free clinic every month. It’s a medical van outfitted with and exam room and all the basic necessities, but I still feel like MacGyver sometimes. That’s a whole other post, though.
Anyway, one thing I don’t have in common with Edie: I could not live with open cabinets! I loved my cabinet doors, y’all. They give my eyes a place to rest when the surfaces are covered in dishes and grime and half eaten meals and the floor crunches with cheerios from the kids. I don’t know what I’d do if I had to keep the insides of my cabinets presentable all the time. But, goodness, Edie’s shelves are beautiful!
One of my favorite things about a room design I love is looking at it through the frame of another room. Being able to see something of a portrait of a beautiful thing just next door. Here is my view of the kitchen from our Keeping Room:
Notice those blue ceilings? So glad Darlene pointed me toward this shade! I wanted to evoke a reminder of our dear southern porch ceilings. Just a hint of aqua.
Just in the last few weeks all the final details of this space have come together. The curtains came in and were installed. I had to wait to chose their fabric until the other rooms just off this space were nearing completion, as I wanted the kitchen curtains to tie in some colors of the Keeping Room. Here is my little fruit bowl, and keeping it real, you can see a small sampling of the toddler’s toys which are strewn across the great room beyond.
Finally having the details of this space complete is a great feeling. I’ve got organized spice drawers, pot drawers, pull-out cookie sheet racks. Basically, this home cook is spoiled rotten. So I’m doing my best to spoil my family right back with amazing (healthy) meals as well. And the occasional 9-layered caramel cake, to boot.
I’m linking this post up to LifeInGrace’s “Life: On Purpose, Home Edition” Link up, and to Simple Mom’s Project Simplify and to Pancakes and French Fries The William Morris Project.
I know, I know, only a few posts ago I announced my success in finally losing 55 pounds and dipping below the obese range on the BMI charts, and here I am posting about making an insanely large caramel cake. Let it be known that there are times of feasting and times of fasting, and my husband’s birthday was a time to celebrate.
DISCLAIMER: To keep from regaining or overindulging in any treat or sweet: have a strategy! We don’t normally keep sweets in our home because of temptation. So my plan for this cake included: having many family members over to help enjoy it, and slicing/freezing leftovers to tuck away in the back of the freezer where I actually forgot about it. Also, while maintaining weight loss, I find it helps accountability to weigh-in every single morning. Knowing that the scale awaits no matter what my choices has helped keep me from seconds many times!
To be clear, I do limit my creation of this massive cake of creamy caramel to once per year. It is my husband’s favorite, and I’ve been working to perfect it for years. Anyone who lives in the Deep South, as we do, knows that this sort of cake is legendary. The boiled caramel icing is very finicky; you’ve got to hover over that candy thermometer. I once got distracted while waiting for it to cool to precisely the right temperature for transfer to the mixer, and missed the temp by a mere 5 degrees. This resulted in having to chisel hardened caramel from my beloved cast-iron pot for quite a while. Not desirable, to say the least. So, if you dare try this, be sure you use an old pot, just in case your caramel gets mad. And I don’t even know what to tell you if you live in high elevations. This southern cake may not take well to Colorado mountains.
There is a little old lady in a small South Carolina town not far from here who makes amazing caramel cakes. She can even make them in 13 layers, from what I hear. There used to me more people who toiled over these cakes and sold them, but I haven’t been able to find any, as the amount of work involved can only be described as a labor of love. Another reason I only make it once a year!
You might hop around the internets searching for a caramel icing. Don’t be fooled by those that don’t involve boiling, or are a caramel version of buttercream. Those, my dear readers, are not actual caramel icings. Real caramel icing is made of cream and brown sugar and butter, tediously boiled and cooled and finally mixed to perfection. We don’t mess around with caramel icings down here.
Also, a note on the thin cake layers. You could pull off these thin layers by either baking a handful of round yellow cake layers and slicing them into thinner layers, or you could just bake a whole pile of thin cake layers and not mess with halving them. I’ve tried it both ways and by far prefer the simplicity of the second method. Yes, I used 9 cake pans for this. Don’t panic; you can buy some disposable aluminum ones and no one knows the difference.
Multi-Layered Southern Caramel Cake
- Your favorite yellow cake baked in thin layers
- For the Icing:
- 2 cups packed packed brown sugar
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 3 T unsalted butter
- 1 tsp vanilla
Dissolve the brown sugar into the cream in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until dissolved, then place a candy thermometer into the cream/sugar mixture. Allow it to heat, without further stirring, until or just before it hits 240 degrees Farenheit. Removed it from the heat, and stir in 3 Tbs of butter. Stir it for a few minutes, and then allow it to cool. Between 150 and 110 degrees, transfer it to a stand mixer and begin to beat the icing, adding the vanilla. Beat until it is cool, and becomes thick and creamy. This will take a while. Test it to be sure it is a spreadable consistancy. You can add some cream if needed to thin it.
Use icing on the cake layers or refrigerate (covered) for up to 3 weeks. If refridgerated, allow it to come to room temperature before spreading–you might need to beat it in the stand mixer for a few minutes to losen it up.
Enjoy! (In moderation)
We are nearing the end of our first year in a new house, and getting everything in order and decorated has been great fun. I love bringing together beautiful fabrics, textures, patterns into a space, but especially enjoy giving old pieces new life. As mentioned before, I’ve worked with the talented Darlene of Feildstone Hill Design in planning several rooms, including the Keeping Room, located off the kitchen of our home, which is where we keep our TV. I wanted to use the TV Lift stand we already owned, but hated the color. So she recommended I paint it to match my new desk, and add the new gold hoop handles. I couldn’t have been more delighted with the results. (A little note–the photo above makes my walls look really pink–in reality they are a much prettier muted salmon.)
When I bought the flat screen TV for my husband a few years ago, back when those big box TVs stopped being carried in stores, I knew that if we got a big screen we’d also have to find a way to hide it. I just don’t enjoy the look of massive screens, and abhore the way they are put over fireplaces as centerpieces in so many homes. They will always be ugly, electronic things in my opinion (no offense!) and I just don’t want to look at it unless its turned on and we are enjoying a show together. So in my quest for a solution that fit in our home and didn’t take up much space, and could move with us into our new home, I ran across lift cabinets. Basically the TV is mounted to something with a motor, that with the press of a button a panel opens up on the back of the cabinet and the TV lifts up into view, and back down again when viewing is done. The doors in the front house shelves for DVD storage. The perfect solution, in my book. I just love that I could transform the functional unit into something more beautiful, with simple paint and hardware changes.
In case you are wondering, here is the design board that Darlene came up with for this room.
You can see my desk on the left, which the TV Lift Cab now matches. I basically (upon Darlene’s recommendation) took a small drawer to the paint store with me and had them match the color. They suggested I use oil-based paint, but with little kids in the house and knowing I’d have to paint the thing inside, where long drying times would likely result in small handprints in the finish as well as all over the hosue, I settled on lots of sanding and a good primer, followed by several coats of the creamy color. After it was dry, I added a thin layer of gold glaze across the whole thing to give it depth, using a dry brush and then wiping it away. It left the perfect subtle sheen and slightest color variations. Finally, I added some gold paint detailing around the outside of the doors and placed the new handles. (Wood glue filled the old handle holes). The hinges I left in place but gave them a little gold paint, which has held on fine.
I’m nearing completion in this room. Ordering my curtain rods this week, will get them up, and then I’ll hang the wall art. I love this room because it is so incredibly functional, but each piece and color and pattern is carefully thought out and exactly what we love. So close!
I’m linking this post to The William Morris Project at Pancakes and French Fries, as well as Living Well Spending Less’s Thrify Thursdays.