Gardening 2017

One of our biggest dreams when we were house hunting was to have sufficient space for a garden. And now that we have that space, we are reading lots of gardening books and dreaming big. So today I’m passing along some of the wisdom we’ve gleaned from books and other resources we’ve come across. And I love simple, so I’m only going to share 3 simple beginner’s tips:

1 – Know your region.

Not every type of plant can grow just anywhere, so it’s important to know which plants can handle the temperatures and weather your particular region receives in a growing season. According to the Plant Hardiness Zone Map we live in Zone 6/6a so growing more tropical plants would be highly disappointing here. Instead, cold-hardy plants or plants with shorter growing seasons are what we would be the smarter pick.

2 – Study the light.

Unless you have zero trees on your property, this step is super important because it allows you to see where light travels. Last summer I took note of where the sunniest locations in our yard were in a given day. Each hour I noted where the sun was shining. We live in a park-like neighborhood (lots of mature trees), and this exercise allowed me to locate the best location for our garden without having to take out trees.

3 – Start small (and easy).

Some great wisdom was shared with us … in our excitement don’t plant too much (to start, at least). We have much to learn and too many new things at once is a recipe for burnout and failure. So our plan for 2017 is to

1) start a compost bin
Compost is the BEST thing for your garden and we are willing to put off using our raised beds one more year so that we can utilize nature’s gold.
2) build a raised garden bed/window box
Building our raised garden beds now and not filling them will allow us to place them where we think they will soak up the most sunlight, but if we need to tweak and shift them a tad it will be much easier with them empty.
3) plant our 3-4 most favorite foods in containers.
Peas, sweet potatoes, carrots and a dwarf blueberry bush are topping our list for now.

Do you garden? What is your best garden advice for beginners?

My 25-Pound Weight Loss

I remember the day – June 28, 2016.

I looked in the mirror and asked myself, “what happened?”

I weighed 162.5 lbs at the time, which was very unhealthy for my small 5’5′ frame.

I was also dealing with numerous health concerns (nearly 30). I was convinced I was dying or had MS or something else serious, but thankfully medical tests ruled those things out.

One night in September my husband and I were both scared when I got incredibly dizzy and disoriented, to the point I could not walk on my own. Something was clearly wrong despite tests showing I was in picture-perfect health. I had grown sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.

Thus began my journey to getting serious about my health. I wanted to get to the bottom of why I felt so tired, achy, couldn’t sleep well, had digestive issues, sensitivities, depression, intense food cravings/food addiction and host of other problems.

I had always been somewhat skeptical of detoxes and cleanses, not really sure if they were safe or worked. But the more I researched the topic the more led I felt to give it a try. A friend of mine recommended the Arbonne 28-Day Cleanse and after some investigating I decided I had nothing to lose in trying it – if it didn’t work I could get a 100% refund and then carry on with troubleshooting.

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For the 28 days I eliminated all corn, soy, dairy, gluten-full, and sugar containing foods & focussed on eating whole foods. At the same time I used various supplements to help eliminate toxins from my body. When I started I had no idea what to hope for or expect.

Remember those 30 health concerns I had? After the cleanse I could name only 4 that still persisted (some of which will never go away as I have an autoimmune condition). I felt great, better than I had in years! And my weight? I lost nearly 8 pounds in those 28 days without feeling like I was trying! This translated to 5″ lost in my chest (going from an XL top to a S/M top), 9″ in my waist, and 4″ in my hips. I tend to carry extra weight up top and this is reflected in where I lost most of my weight.)

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The summer of 2016 I reached my heaviest recorded weight (non-pregnant) – 162.5 pounds. Four months later I am 25.5 pounds down (now in a healthy weight range, woohoo!), keeping it off (thanks to a Paleo diet) and am enjoying life again. I feel great!

If you are interested in trying out the supplements that I used, I’d be happy to give you more information. Just leave a comment with an email address and we can talk.

Have you experienced breakthroughs in your health journey? I’d love to hear about them! 

The Digital Detox

vb_v6w1nmea-pineapplesI don’t know about you but clutter breeds stress and anxiety in me big time. This includes digital clutter. This year I’m committed to weeding out all the fluff in my life so I can focus more on what matters. In keeping with a theme of simplicity and contentment for the year I am not only challenging myself to let go of physical things, but I am doing the same with my digital life.

I thought about sharing a step-by-step process of what I did, but why re-invent the wheel when this Declutter To-Do List from Becoming Minimalist is thorough and concise. I will, however, share what I gained by letting so much go.

1 – Productivity

If it couldn’t help me #cultivatewhatmatters in my life or work toward my goals then it was time to let go. This included social media accounts. Now I spend less time searching for files and things I need because I know where they are. And not only am I more efficient, but so is my computer! And I more free time which is a bonus (hello, reading for the fun of it)!

2 – Reduced Frustration

Social media is such a noisy place, and has been a great source of frustration for me (I’m looking at you, 2016 election season). Unfollowing people & accounts that are contributing to that noise has significantly reduced the amount of frustration and anxiety I’ve felt. We each get to choose what fills our feeds – hopefully we are choosing to fill it with #whatmattersmost and is meaningful to us. It’s okay to unfollow people who are constantly contrary or ruffle your feathers often.

3 – Contentment

When all I have on my computer and in my social media feeds is what inspires me toward what matters most in life, I am much more content. I’m not reminded of how I fit in (or not) or what I am missing (or not). I’m not distracted by how well I am (or aren’t) measuring up. Turning down the noise from what distracts me has resulted in much more contentment with my own real life.

What about you? Have you done a digital detox? How did you go about it and what did you learn? I’d love to hear about it!

 

My Word for 2017 :: Content(ment)

I love this time of year. There’s something therapeutic to me about reflecting on the past 365 days and anticipating all that could happen in the next 365.

Last year my word for the year was “fruitful?” Just a few months in to the year and I realized that the heart behind that word when I chose it was full of striving and trying hard to make my life look picture perfect … and God in his kindness and grace and mercy loved me too much to let me wear myself out this way. My year took a turn when I understood what true fruitfulness really looked like.

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This year, I’m continuing along in the same vein with “content.” Patience, grace toward myself, and gratitude in all circumstances are the areas I’m weakest in still. I want to hone in on contentment this year and grow in thankfulness and peace in wherever God has me in life. I want to enjoy the life I have instead of wishing mine looked like someone else’s.

What is your word for the year? What do you want to focus on for 2017?


Powersheets are my biggest tool this year in helping me accomplish  my goals. Learn more about Powersheets here . (affiliate link)

Ways to Care for Your Postal Carrier When It’s Hot

We rely upon them daily. Without them bills would not be paid. No newspapers, magazines, or circulars would wait for us in our mailboxes. Birthday cards, letters and other gifts would not arrive.

A lot goes in to getting our daily stack of mail to us. No matter the weather or the temperature postal carriers work hard at their jobs and we reap the benefits. Postal carriers are often forgotten, especially in extreme weather.

Where I live postal carriers walk and hand-deliver our mail to our boxes (on our front porches). In the summer months they don’t have the option to escape the heat like I do.

Here are some simple and meaningful ways to refresh your postal carrier in the heat:

  • if you are home when the mail arrives, personally offer your mail carrier a cold drink {lemonade or water}.
  • if you won’t be home leave a cooler with a glass or two of ice cold lemonade or water next to
  • your mailbox with a note that lets them know to enjoy a drink {make sure you pack ice or
  • freeze packs in the cooler to keep things chilled}
  • leave some cold, damp rags in a cooler so you carrier can freshen up after a sweater route {don’t forget ice to keep the inside of the cooler chilled}
  • leave a motorized hand-fan at the mail box as a gift {or one of those mist bottles with a fan attached}
  • offer a seat on your porch {or somewhere in the shade} for your mail carrier to sit and rest for a few minutes (they are not allowed to enter your home while on the clock)
  • offer a cold treat to your letter carrier {or leave one in an ice-filled cooler if you won’t be home}
  • you can also leave a note attached telling your carrier how much you appreciate all the hard work they do. A kind word can make a huge impact an refresh the soul.

For further reading

13+ Things Your Mail Carrier Won’t Tell You (Reader’s Digest)

Ways To Care for Your Postal Carrier When It's Hot | A Fruitful Life

Celiac Disease :: Our Journey to Diagnosis

Did you know that 1 in 100 people have celiac disease but only 5% of those knows they have it?

For years we were that 95%.

It began when our oldest child (now 10) turned two years old. We spent two years in and out of doctors offices before we were accurately diagnosed.

Almost overnight she developed digestive problems, mainly in the form of chronic constipation. Her tummy was stolen and distended. A weekly bowel movement (if that) was our norm, and it would almost always clog our toilet. Bad.

We tried everything to cure her of this – change in diet, medication, home remedies. She was even hospitalized once for severe constipation. Deep down my husband and I knew something wasn’t right, and I was growing weary of the doctors recommending the same things and subtly suggesting that everything was our fault (not feeding her well, for example).

We had a second child, another girl. A few weeks in to having her home she began projectile vomiting nearly all of the contents of her stomach after nursing. She had to be upright most of the time to prevent the vomiting spells. She was fussy, almost always uncomfortable, and was very tiny. The doctor prescribed baby Zantac for her, thinking she had infant reflux (GERD). This helped slightly but did not improve her quality of life by much.

After four-to-five months the vomiting episodes were less frequent, but our youngest was not gaining much weight. Measuring in the 25th percentile at birth she steadily declined with each check-up, and eventually weighed in at the 1st percentile. Her iron levels were low. She acted lethargic most of the time. By the time she was three-years old she developed new symptoms in addition to the ones she already had: leg, arm and body pain & stomach pains and also loose stools/diarrhea. It got so bad at times she was in tears. Doctors told us she was just tiny and that she suffered from growing pains and occasional constipation. But deep down inside my husband and I knew something wasn’t right. (By the way, our oldest daughter, now four-years old, still had bowel movement issues.)

About this time we had our third child, a son. When he was 8 or 9 months old he began to have bowel issues as well: very frequent and very foul smelling, mucous-y stools. Doctors were baffled by him and told us that he had toddler diarrhea, but would grow out of it. Deep down my husband and I knew something wasn’t right so we sought out second opinions for all three of our children.

I made an appointment with the pediatrician (again) and requested that my children’s be tested for celiac disease. The doctor was somewhat hesitant and unsure when I asked him if all of my children’s digestive problems could be celiac disease. The impression I got (from him and several other doctors in the practice) was that I was a neurotic mom and that my children were fine. But I was not satisfied with their diagnoses. They all seemed to suggest the same things: change in diet, reduce juice, take Miralax daily indefinitely.

Deep down I knew something wasn’t right.

The doctor tested them for celiac disease. A week later I got a call from my children’s pediatrician. With amazement and surprise in his voice he explained that my middle child (the one who vomited so much and was diagnosed GERD) tested positive for celiac disease, but that my oldest child (severely constipated) and son (severely poopy) did not. I had mixed emotions relief that something was discovered and we could move in the direction of treatment

I was overwhelmed at the new world we were about to enter. It sounded daunting.

I was confused over what could be wrong with my other children

I was frustrated with our pediatrician’s office for their lack of support or knowledge

I felt vindicated that I wasn’t a neurotic mom, that I fought for my children and didn’t give up until I got an answer.

Perplexed about my other two children, I sought the second opinion of a pediatric GI. She noticed my oldest child, in a technically sense, had blood test results that were “negative” but those levels were in borderline range (something the pediatrician never told me). The GI listened to our journey with our oldest’s constipation issues and recommended an intestinal biopsy to rule out/confirm celiac disease (biopsy is the only sure-fire way to know). My oldest’s biopsy results were positive, too. She had celiac disease, too. Relief, confusion and frustration returned.

In only what I consider to be God’s divine providence I learned that celiac disease runs in families. My father had been diagnosed with celiac disease just a few years prior, and neither he nor I knew it was genetic. I started connecting the dots.

With two of my children testing positive and my father having celiac disease I seemed to be the missing link. Fairly unsymptomatic, I was also tested for celiac disease. I passed with flying colors. The doctor’s exact words were “your readings were through the roof.” I also had celiac disease.

Once making the switch to a gluten-free diet we almost immediately noticed pain and discomfort were the first symptoms to disappear. Some of the other symptoms took a little longer to decrease, as it can take several months for the intestines to heal and repair themselves.

Curious about my son? Because it’s much more difficult to diagnose a child under the age of 3 he was re-tested 6 months after his initial test. This test also came back negative. Eventually his DNA was examined in order to identify the presence (or absence) of the genetic marker celiac disease. He tested positive for the gene and lives on a gluten-free diet as well.

A gluten-free diet has helped him, but not all his problems were solved through this change. After undergoing an EGD we learned that he has digestive enzyme deficiencies in addition to having celiac disease. A gluten-free diet, enzyme supplements and avoiding a few foods have allowed him to live a full and healthy life.


One of the main reasons I share this story with you is because I know many of you reading this are struggling with health concerns that have been plaguing you long enough to concern you. And perhaps your family doctor is trying address it but things are just not getting better. Or perhaps despite your physician’s advice something just doesn’t settle well with you. You know something is not right, you just don’t know what it could be.

May I encourage you to ask your doctor to test you for celiac disease? Usually bloodwork is done first. If you have bloodwork done, ask to see your results and compare your number with what is normal, abnormal and borderline. An EGD is the only sure fire way to get an accurate diagnosis, so you can even ask for this test as well.

Some people don’t want to go through all of this, and assume to just go gluten-free to save time and money of testing. I highly encourage you to NOT take this approach. If you have celiac disease you need to know it because it’s even more critical that you avoid gluten at all costs. It can also be helpful if you have further medical concerns down the road. Knowing you have celiac disease can impact courses of treatment. Some people are intolerant of gluten, but intolerance and celiac disease can have similar symptoms … but an intolerance means you can still ingest gluten but in very small quantities if you so choose.  If you eat gluten and have celiac disease you can increase the likelihood of you developing other health complications down the road.

Infographic: What are the symptoms of celiac disease?

All About Celiac Disease from the MayoClinic

Kitchen Progress

When we purchased our home, the kitchen was … well … let’s just say it needed lots and lots of love.

The stove didn’t work. The dishwasher aged back to the dinosaurs and was a fire hazard. The refrigerator was ti-ny for our 5-member family. The original dingy wallpaper hung from the walls, and lovely Robin’s Egg Blue laminate graced the countertop and backsplash. The garbage disposal was broken and I feel confident there were mysterious beings living under the sink. It’s part of what you get when you buy a fixer upper.

The kitchen, like the rest of the house, felt tired. It was also the room that needed the most work. See what I mean?

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We wanted to brighten up the kitchen and make it feel less “blah” and more clean.

Simple farmhouse style was our vision – Keep the existing cabinets, but reface them or take the doors off completely for a semi-open shelf look; replace appliances; do some painting, and BOOM.

As with all old homes, things never go according to plan.

When an electrical issue needed to be addressed behind the wall we had to take the cabinets out to get to the problem. We discovered then that the cabinets had been handmade and were built on to the wall. They were not your typical box cabinet you can find in a store. Just pulling one panel of wood off caused the entire length of cabinets to dismantle.

Here’s a photo of the beginning of demo … bye, bye cabinets and hello anxiety.

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And see the “lovely” blue laminate backsplash? As that was being taken off the walls, the plaster was just crumbling on to the floor. So guess what that meant? Yep, take two of our kitchen walls down to the studs and put up drywall. Sigh …

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They (my husband and two friends) told me it was the only way, and that it would be so worth it in the end. I had my doubts … I just quietly sobbed in the living room as they ripped out the plaster and lath. And when they were done the kitchen looked like this …

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And as we removed everything we noticed that a previous owner had installed the floor around the cabinets, so before we could put in new cabinets we had to figure out what to do about the floor. Because of the budget, we decided to put some plywood down where the cabinets were and then place new cabinets over that.

The walls were insulated and then drywall went up.

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See the nasty plaster on the right next to do the door? That’s damaged plaster, too, but thankfully it was still attached to the wall. And it was just that spot, so we didn’t want to tear down the entire wall because of that spot. White beadboard seemed the most obvious choice for that wall.

The Mr hung the drywall and then I taped and mudded the seams. I discovered another house project I enjoy. It’s like a large-scale art project.

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Putting The Kitchen Back Together Again

Cabinets
I found some brand new Shaker-style high end maple cabinets (and pantry) from a cabinet company (thank you Craigslist). The cabinets were a discontinued line so instead of paying over $3000 for a sink base, 5 lower cabinets and a pantry, we paid just $300 total.

Appliances
Our stainless steel appliances were a steal from Sears. All 3 items were on sale, and then I combined my Sears Rewards with some online coupon codes I found on Retail Me Not and saved $2000! We had free installation and they hauled away our dishwasher and stove!

Countertop
We decided to go with butcher block counter tops. We found maple butcher block at Lumber Liquidators for 40% off. We sealed it with Waterlox and topped with with a Satin Waterlox Finish.

Details
We installed a new faucet, subway tile backsplash, and drawer/cabinet pulls. The walls were painted Sterling by Behr. The trim was painted Swiss Coffee by Behr.

Up-and-Coming
as we save for each update

  • painting the cabinets white (to be completed this spring)
  • install open shelving above the countertop
  • some cosmetic work on the ceiling
  • install Formica countertops on both sides of the stove
  • install subway tile backsplash behind stove
  • some art and decor to give it personality

Here’s what our kitchen looks like now …

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Ta-da! This is the wall that made me cry. This is the wall that was gutted, and now that it’s over I am really glad we did it. I can’t wait to paint the cabinets white this spring!

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Window + sink + view = perfection

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Our Craigslist cast iron sink (Kohler)

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Maple butcher block sealed with Waterlox

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I am super excited about this little nook that took shape as we worked on the kitchen. A cut-out in the wall and the pantry created this perfect little hide-a-way for our mixer. The shelves are hand-crafted and were super easy to built/install. I can’t wait to stain them! (scroll down for a list of the books on the shelf)

Here’s the before and after …

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What To Do Next

Our only dilemma now is to figure out what to do with this wall in the kitchen. It’s looks so blank compared to all the wall opposite it (the sink wall). This wall is riding the struggle bus. Bless it.

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We are definitely planning to install a subway tile backsplash spanning the length of the cabinets and stove (like what is on the sink wall). We plan to install Formica counters (that look like marble).

It’s what goes above all this on the wall that we keep going back and forth on.

We want either a range hood OR an over-the-stove microwave. I’ve been thinking some open shelves would look nice with either of those choices.

But would open shelves look better on the other wall, or will it be too busy on the sink-side of the kitchen. I kind of think the shelves will crowd out the nook/bookshelves and will also be in your face when you walk in the door.

Those with more reno and interior design experience than me & those that have a natural knack for figuring this kind of stuff out, what would you suggest?


 

For Those Trying To Read The Names of All The Books

Kitchen 7These are some of my favorite food books and cookbooks