March 19, 2019

Chili Dog Pizza (Recipe)

As I mentioned, I've been working on migrating my recipes to this blog, so you may see more of them than usual.

Holy smokes, was this ever good! I don't know why I never thought to do this sooner. But since summer is approaching, I thought this would be a good time of year to post this recipe.

Chili Dog Pizza Recipe

Here is a printer-friendly version!

Chili Dog Pizza

1 pizza crust (homemade, store bought, pre-cooked, whatever!)
1 can hot dog chili (found with the canned chili, it's usually in a smaller can--14 oz?)
4-6 hot dogs (I used 8 Hebrew National 97% fat free hot dogs, but I felt it was a bit much)
cheddar cheese
onions, chopped fine

I'm not being specific with the amounts of everything used, or the nutrition content (because it completely depends on the products you use). Just pre-bake your crust for about 5 minutes at 450 F, then top with the chili sauce, cheese, and hot dogs. Bake until the cheese is melted and dogs are starting to brown, approximately 10 minutes. Then top with raw onions and mustard for serving. Beware--it's very messy! This is a eat-with-utensils kind of pizza ;)

March 17, 2019

Children with Anxiety and My Thoughts on How Parents Can Help

I want to preface this post by saying that I am in no way a legal therapist, doctor, social worker, or any other professional that deals with mental health. I am, however, a 37-year old wife and mother (to two teen boys) who has generalized anxiety disorder and bipolar disorder. My mental illnesses started when I was very young, so I know what it is like to have these issues as a child.

I also want to point out that I may write things about my family that are in no way meant to be harmful or accusatory. My family is very caring and loving, and I know my parents did a great job raising me. Mental health wasn't talked about as much then as it is now. There are a few things I will mention that may bring up points about my childhood, but my family has been super supportive in several ways over the years, and I am so grateful for that!

Recently, I got an email from a mom who was worried about her middle school-aged daughter who was showing signs of severe anxiety. She was wondering what, based on my experiences, she could do to help with her daughter's anxiety. I am always happy to help whenever I can when it comes to mental illness (I really wish I had the money and motivation to go back to school and get a masters in social work so I could be a therapist--in all honesty, I think I'd be good at it. Even my own therapist suggested it)

Kids have anxiety for all sorts of reasons, and most of the time it's probably temporary. Maybe they are very worried about a test coming up at school, and they get stomaches because of it. But in a small minority of kids, it can be caused from generalized anxiety disorder (which is basically a constant state of worry without knowing why and without a real "ending").

And a lot of times, they could worry about things that we adults find irrational--someone coming and kidnapping them in the middle of the night; one of their parents dying suddenly; a car crash; the house burning down in the middle of the night.

When I was a child, I remember worrying about my dog, Penny, dying. I would wake up in the night and just cry and cry, worrying about Penny. I worried about fires starting in my house. I worried that I was doing something "wrong" (i.e. "unchristian-like") because my parents are very religious. I remember going skinny dipping with my friend Sarah in her pool one night (we were probably 9 or 10 years old) and afterward, I felt a horrible sense of guilt. We were innocent kids, doing nothing wrong, but I carried that guilt around with me for YEARS.

My anxiety started very young. I remember worrying about money (my mom didn't talk about it to us kids, but I would overhear things here and there), so I never liked to ask her to buy me "cool" clothes; I just wore the mom-like jeans from the ladies section (Bill Blass and Chic come to mind!).

While my siblings always asked my parents for "allowance", I didn't take money unless it was offered. I babysat to earn my own money. (I do have a memory of my mom taking me shopping to some of the mall stores we didn't normally go to, and she let me buy a couple of outfits for high school--the "cool" clothes--which was fun.)

My parents didn't know that depression or bipolar was a possibility for me. Mental illness wasn't really talked about much back then. They did the best they could with my moods, and thankfully, I had a good childhood with lots of great memories. However, knowing what I know now, I think that the validation of my feelings was absent a lot of the time. (I'm guilty of this with my own kids; I didn't really learn much about it until my therapist told me about it a couple of years ago.)

If you don't read anything else in this post, please take the time to read about validation. While this isn't something I learned until I was in therapy myself, it was a huge "aha!" moment for me, and I think it's something that everyone needs to learn.

Again, I am not trying to throw my family under the bus, but I don't think that my feelings were validated when I was a kid. For example, when I would cry about thinking my dog would die in the middle of the night, someone would tell me that I was just being dramatic, because the dog was fine. A better response would have been:

"That must be a really scary thought--I know you love Penny so much and so do we. Thankfully, Penny is doing just fine right now, and we take her to the vet to get checked out. The doctor says she's healthy. I think Penny is going to live a long and happy life. So, while it's scary to think about stuff like that, I don't think it's something we have to worry about for a long time."

My first dog, Penny:

Considering I was very different from my family growing up, a lot of the things I was worried about must have seemed irrational. And it's easy for adults (or older kids) to see those as irrational and think that I was "being dramatic" or "too sensitive" or "difficult". (To this day those three words--dramatic, sensitive, and difficult--are a big trigger for me. They make me feel like my feelings are invalid.)

To validate someone's feelings doesn't mean that you have to agree with them. It just means that they want to be heard and not dismissed like their opinion or worries don't matter or that they are just being "difficult".

I can't stress enough how much the simple act of validating someone's feelings can make a world of difference for them. It will build self esteem and make them feel more worthy.

Something that I still have a hard time with when it comes to my own kids when they are feeling anxious is that I want to tell them, "You have nothing to worry about! It will be fine!". Whether it's a trip to the dentist, or taking a test, or a cross country race. While those worries may seem kind of ridiculous enough to us, they are vey real worries for our kids--and we have to acknowledge that.

Noah always tells me he's nervous about a test a school. So instead of saying, "Don't worry about it, you'll do fine!" I say something like, "I know that tests are nerve-wracking, and I used to get that way all the time, too. Tests are scary! But you studied hard, and I know you'll do your best, so I have faith that you're going to do great."

Validating feelings takes some work. It takes more effort and focus, but it will honestly make a world of difference in not just kids, but adults as well. (I wrote more about that in this post).

Moving on...

Another thing that we can do to help is to not show anxiety in front of our kids (SO much easier said than done!). A good example of this is with my family (yet again). When my kids were toddlers, and my mom was watching them, she would gasp when they would fall down or bump into something. I found myself doing that as a parent as well. And I still find it hard not to when I babysit Luke and Riley!

When I watch my brother, Brian, and his wife, Becky, with my niece and nephew, they are the most CHILL parents ever, and so are their kids! When Luke falls down, they don't gasp or ask if he's okay. They pretend nothing happened and he just stands up and keeps moving. They let him live and learn, and because of that, he never freaks out. When they drop the kids off here and say goodbye, they don't make a big deal of it--just a kiss and a "see you later!" and Luke doesn't cry or have separation anxiety. I really wish I'd known all this when my kids were little!

Kids will feed off of our "chillness" or our "anxiety"--whatever vibes we put off. When kids have fears or they worry about things that we think are irrational, it's important for us to realize that they aren't "just being dramatic" or "too sensitive" or "difficult". (Three words I avoid like the plague when it comes to my kids. Even though it's very hard sometimes not to use those words!)

See? Not dramatic at all ;)

My kids still see my anxiety quite a bit, because it's difficult to hide, but they are old enough now that I've explained mental illness and bipolar (and generalized anxiety disorder) to them so they do understand. However, I've done much better since I started validating their feelings.

Something else that may help: Eli dealt with severe anxiety for just a few months a couple of years ago, and I was VERY worried about him. He was upset, crying himself to sleep every night with worry that seemed to come out of nowhere. I ended up buying a roller ball of essential oils from Amazon (one that has lavender, which is supposed to help with calming).

He kept it with him at all times and rolled it on his temples. Maybe it was a placebo effect, but he swears it helped. I even bought him a lavender spray for his pillow at night so that he'd be able to sleep better. He liked that and he told me it was working. Whether it was a placebo effect or not, it helped him, so I am grateful!

Then his school said that he wasn't allowed to bring the little roller ball (literally the size of chapstick) to school because it's considered "medication"--how stupid is that?! So, I bought a special bracelet and we would put some of the oils on that before school and he could smell it that way. He swears that it helped him so much.

Now, I'm happy to say that Eli's anxiety just went away like it was a phase he was going though. Recently, he saw me very upset because I was feeling so anxious, and he brought me his bottle of lavender mist for my pillow (he's seriously the sweetest kid ever!)

Having a child with anxiety or depression is heartbreaking! You want to make it better so badly, but there is nothing you can really do to take it all away. It definitely helps to listen; to validate their feelings; to remain calm ourselves; and possibly find a way like the essential oils to help for an immediate fix.

Like you all know, I'm not a doctor or mental health professional, so all I wrote here was my advice from my own experiences. If your child is showing signs of a severe issue with anxiety, it never hurts to see a therapist or psychiatrist. (You can read about what to expect at a first psych appointment here).

And I found this graphic on Pinterest (I'm not sure where it originated) but I thought it might be helpful in recognizing signs of chronic anxiety...

We all do our best to raise our kids to be happy and healthy, and I think mental health is just as important as physical health. I hope that this post is helpful!

March 15, 2019

Relating to the People on My 600-lb Life (and why I think I may have been successful in dropping the weight)

Jerry and I recently became totally addicted to the show on Netflix called Ozark. Yesterday, Jerry was off work and we binge watched several episodes of season one. I'm super bummed that there are only two season so far! It's a great show--it reminds me a bit of Breaking Bad, only it focuses more on the money laundering than it does the drugs. And unfortunately, there is no Jesse Pinkman ;)

I've also been watching episodes of My 600-lb Life here and there (I swear I do things other than watch TV, haha!) and it's scary how much I can relate to the people on there. It makes me wonder why I was able to lose the weight even though I have the same food issues they do.

A lot of them had abusive childhoods--sexual, physical, and/or emotional--and in general, it sounds like that contributed to their overeating. Thankfully, I never experienced that abuse, but I do relate to so much of what they say about food. And a lot of their habits are familiar to me--either now or when I was obese.

One thing that I've noticed is that they have so many excuses, though. I promised myself from the very beginning that I wouldn't make excuses for my weight. I know that I became obese because I was choosing to overeat. The cravings and the temptation were SO uncomfortable and the only way to shut it up was to binge eat.

So why did I finally get it together and lose the weight? I honestly don't know why I could and those people can't. Or aren't willing to try hard enough.

Jerry and I were talking about it yesterday, and I think that a big part of my success is that social media wasn't really a big thing back then (in 2009). It was before people started getting very critical on social media outlets like Facebook. I honestly don't think I'd be able to do it if I had started today instead of back in 2009.

Everybody has an opinion of what we should eat, what we shouldn't eat, what diets are healthy, the best exercises for weight loss, how many calories are too much, how many calories are too little, and a trillion other things. I've been criticized for ALL OF IT:

I ate too many grapes which are just loaded with sugar (clearly, that wasn't a smart alternative from the WHOLE BOX of Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls I used to eat). Jerry, the kids, and I went out for frozen yogurt for a special dinner on Father's Day a few years ago and that clearly made me a horrible role model for my kids. I eat way too many calories. I eat way too few calories. I exercise too much. I don't exercise enough. My goal weight is too low. My goal weight is too high.

I've heard it all. And thank God I stopped getting upset by it and started just doing my own thing. Even if "my own thing" means gaining weight every year only to lose it again, it has worked so far (nine years and counting).

And today, I finally feel like I'm at the point where I just don't think that weight is that damn important. Yes, I want to get to a weight that makes me feel better, but I don't hate what I look like and I have more important things on my mind right now (my mental health, mainly).

Anyway back to the point... Before social media, people did things without reserve. They weren't worried about what others thought, because they never saw what others thought! It wasn't posted on blogs or Facebook or other social media. The harsh comments I've received over the years used to be very hurtful, and I highly doubt I would have continued losing weight if I had to deal with the anxiety of that.

So, I am grateful that I was able to do the majority of my journey before all of that.

Also, I keep in mind that nobody knows what is going through my mind. My mental illness makes me think differently than the average person. Having bipolar, I know what works for my skewed brain. And even though I am not at my goal weight right now, I've kept off 90-ish pounds for over 8 years. I'd say that's pretty damn successful.

In other news, I've been having some physical symptoms due to my anxiety/depression lately. I feel back to where I was a couple of years ago when I was going to physical therapy for my shoulder. I get very tight knots in my shoulder and neck. It's extremely painful, but Jerry helps work them out a bit. I have no idea if it's helping, but I like to think it is.

The mental stuff has had a big impact on my physical health. Other than the knots, my whole body aches. My heart has been racing and I constantly feel like a have a noose around my neck, strangling me. It's hard to swallow. I get dizzy a lot (something else that happens from anxiety). Now that I've discovered that the caffeine was a big culprit for anxiety, I am hoping that the physical symptoms will start to improve.

Anyway, this was a huge tangent on what my bringing up My 600-lb Life was for. During the trillion ads that TLC shows on their app, I noticed one for alcohol-free Heineken. Heineken was my very favorite beer! Since I quit drinking, I haven't tried non-alcoholic beers because they are hard to find around here and I just don't really care that much about beer.

When I saw the commercial, though, I got very excited. I told Jerry that we have to find it! And interestingly, the party store (convenience store) that we walk to in our neighborhood happens to carry it. I was shocked! But one of the employees that works there doesn't drink alcohol, and he loves it, so he continues to stock it.

Anyway, Jerry picked some up as a surprise, and I saved it for a special treat last night. I was really hoping it would taste like Heineken...

Non Alcoholic Heineken Beer

And it does!

If you gave me the 0.0% Heineken in a regular Heineken bottle, I would not know the difference. Honestly. I was thrilled to find a go-to drink that I can "BYOB" when we go to friends' houses and still feel like I fit in a bit. Honestly, people probably wouldn't even notice that it's alcohol-free because the bottle looks similar to the regular Heineken beer bottle.

So, I decided to have one each evening as a special treat. And the non-alcoholic Heineken only has 69 calories! I've been craving vegetables lately, which is odd, but I'm going with it; so, I will have some veggies and hummus for a snack at night with my NA beer. I went grocery shopping today and bought several healthy foods--stuff for fruit salad, and veggies to have with hummus.

Tonight, I made a Southwest Chicken Salad, and it was delicious! I can't remember the last time I ate salad. I go through phases--sometimes I hate salad (most of the time, actually), but sometimes I crave it. Lately, it has sounded really good!

I also started working on writing a walking program today. I know that I am a running coach, but I think that this walking plan I'm working on can be very helpful for getting in good shape as well as weight loss. It's similar to my 10K training (which helped me get to my lowest weight) but I adapted it for walking on the treadmill. (It could be done outside as well, but I'm focusing on the treadmill to use the incline).

I will experiment with it on myself and if it goes how I hope, then I'll get it all ready to post here. I figured that since I'm not able to stick to a running plan right now, what is wrong with walking? Nothing! Walking is a great way to exercise, especially if throwing in some tougher walking workouts. I used to feel like switching from running to walking would be taking a big step back and I wouldn't feel good about that. Now, I think that a walking program is very respectable. And it would be a nice change of pace.

Since I always do better with a schedule, just saying that I'll walk 30 minutes a day won't work well. I need a schedule to follow. The plan I'm writing is 12 weeks, and it'd be fun to work on, especially as the weather warms up. I'll still do most of my walks on the treadmill, probably, but I'll likely do my long walks and easy walks outside. I'll keep you posted on the progress!

March 13, 2019

An Experiment with Caffeine and Anxiety (and Wednesday Weigh-In)

Quitting Caffeine and a Wednesday Weigh-In

I was laughing while trying to take this photo because Estelle, once again, insisted on appearing in the picture ;)

With my anxiety having been SO bad for the last few weeks, I was getting really desperate to figure out what was different or what I could change to help manage it. The major change I made recently was to quit drinking, and that was on January 1st.

As I thought about it, I realized that I had started drinking coffee at around that time--I would have one cup in the morning (well, I guess it would be considered two cups, but it was one large mug). I don't know why I started drinking it every day, because I don't love coffee. I was totally fine not drinking it, so it was kind of dumb to start.

Then, I added another mug of coffee in the afternoon every day. I did that because that time of day is when I generally start feeling drained and I wanted a "pick-me-up". It became a daily habit to have coffee in the morning and in the afternoon. Coffee is a pretty innocent vice, so I didn't think that much of it.

However, I know that coffee can increase anxiety. My anxiety was horrible, but I honestly didn't think that the coffee could be the culprit. I was desperate, though, so I decided to try quitting the coffee cold turkey and see if I noticed a difference. (I could have switched to decaf, but like I said, I don't love coffee, so it wasn't really the taste that I wanted; it was the caffeine.)

I probably should have weened off of it, but we all know that I tend to go extreme when I do things, hahaha. Also, I figured that cutting it out completely would be the fastest and easiest way to see if it was the cause of my anxiety (or at least contributing to it).

My last day drinking coffee was Friday, so on Saturday I didn't have any. And surprisingly, I didn't get a bad headache like I was expecting.

Until Sunday. Holy cow, my head was killing me from not having caffeine. When I made the decision to quit, I expected the caffeine headache, so even though it wasn't fun, I dealt with it. And I also discovered that the coffee was playing a HUGE role in my anxiety! I felt much better (mentally) on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. In the beginning, I really didn't have hope that quitting coffee would help, but the difference was very notable.

Yesterday, my headache was so bad in the afternoon and I'd had a stressful/busy day (Noah fainted on Monday evening, which I'll explain later) and I decided on a whim to make a cup of coffee to simply get rid of the headache. And it worked--my head was much better--but almost instantly, my anxiety rose high. A couple of hours later, I was near panic. My heart was racing and it was hard to breathe.
And it lasted all evening.

I'm really glad that I experimented with it, because it definitely helps to know why my anxiety skyrocketed recently, and quitting coffee/caffeine is an easy fix. If I get a headache today (as I type this, it's only 8:30 AM, and so far, no headache) then I will have no problem dealing with it, simply because I know that my anxiety will be kept at bay. I still feel some depression, but it's gotten better now that the anxiety doesn't accompany it!

Instead of coffee in the mornings, I've been making a cup of chai with a touch of honey and heavy cream (like a chai latte, but less calories). I like the taste better than coffee, and there is very little caffeine in it. Next time I buy the chai, I will get the decaf kind so it won't have any caffeine at all.

Because of my decreased anxiety this week, my appetite was back up. Not excessively, but back to a "normal" level. Last week, my weight had dropped almost five pounds from the week before because I just didn't have much of an appetite. I've been weighing during the week, so I wasn't surprised to see that I didn't have a loss on the scale today:

Wednesday Weigh-In

I was at 161.2 today, which is up 1.8 from last week. I'm not going to lie--I was disappointed not to stay in the 150's--but I know that I didn't eat excessively, so I'm okay with it. I'm still down three pounds from a couple of weeks ago. And now, hopefully I can get back into a good schedule with my eating instead of picking at my food like I did the week before due to the anxiety.

Anyway, about Noah... on Monday evening, Jerry, Eli, and I were in the living room and we were going to watch a show together. Noah was sitting at the countertop behind me, and I asked him if he wanted to come watch with us. I didn't see it, but I heard him fall, and I turned just in time to see him land hard on his butt with his back against the wall.

I thought he'd just slipped as he was standing up, and I said, "What happened?" No response. "Are you okay?" Nothing. Sheer panic--"Noah, answer me right now! Are you okay?!" I was getting up to go check on him, and Jerry jumped up and went over to him. Noah seemed like he was in a daze as Jerry helped him up.

With my own horrid history of fainting, I was really worried and I started drilling him with questions to find out if he'd just fallen or if he fainted. He said that the last thing he remembered was rising to stand up from the chair; and then the next thing he knew, Jerry was standing over him. The whole thing only lasted about five seconds, but it felt like a lot longer.

Noah was only worried about his tailbone--he'd landed really hard on it (it was loud when he hit the floor), and he was in a lot of pain. Thankfully, he didn't hit his head! (Or break his jaw...) There really isn't anything that you can do about a tailbone, even if it's broken, so I didn't think it was necessary to take him to the emergency room. I did, however, call the doctor first thing in the morning yesterday and they were able to see him at noon.

The doctor really didn't see an obvious cause for the incident (Noah had just eaten dinner, he wasn't sitting for a long time before standing, his blood pressure was good). She did some blood work to be safe, but we likely won't know why it happened. His tailbone is still very sore, but other than that, he seems to be okay.

Last night, Jerry, the kids, and I went for a walk in the neighborhood, which is something that we used to do almost every night. We didn't go far--just about a mile--but the kids said they'd like to start doing that every day again. I miss doing it, too. If it's dark, we put on headlamps and carry flashlights. We take Joey, of course, who loves it! It'll be a nice habit to get back into.

Hoping for a good week! (Mentally and physically)

March 11, 2019

Living Room Makeover: Before and After Photos!

If you missed it, I shared photos recently of our completed dining room transformation. You can find the makeover pictures on this post. Moving on to the living room...

I'm doing the home makeover in three different parts, one for each room, because I have SO many pictures. So, I broke it up into each room. I'm saving the kitchen for last, because it was definitely the most work.

Unfortunately, I don't have any great photos of our living room "before". I searched and searched through my photos, trying to find any at all where you could see much of the room. I'll share the ones that you can see it the best, but I apologize that it's not great.

A description of "before":
Rectangular shaped living room
One white exterior door and one brown door that leads to the master bedroom
One of the long walls is almost completely open between the living room, dining room, and kitchen
"Stomped" ceilings (a textured ceiling like popcorn)
Crown molding (that we discovered was to hide the gap between the wall and the ceiling)
Deep green walls
Two large windows
All oak-colored trim, crown molding, and baseboard molding, window sills, doors, EVERYTHING
Light multicolored Berber carpet
Large brown ceiling fan

Furnishings "before":
HUGE brown leather sectional sofa (we loved it, but it definitely needed to be replaced)
Yellow-ish accent chair
Electric fireplace/entertainment console
Three dark brown end tables
One large square coffee table
Joey's dog bed

We wanted to do everything the same order with all three rooms at the same time, for simplicity. For the living room, here is what we did:

1) Scrape off popcorn ceiling (I wrote a tutorial for How to Remove a Popcorn Ceiling here)

2) Use drywall compound to fill in the visible seams on the sealing after scraping the texture off

3) As I was doing that, I decided to remove the crown molding

4) To my surprise, I discovered WHY the crown molding was there--it covered a large gap between the wall and the ceiling. I had to "tape and mud" all along the ceiling in order to get nice sharp edges. I had never done this before, and it was a big learning experience. It's this part that I think I am most proud of from the entire project.

5) Fill in any holes in the walls, cracks, etc.

6) Remove the baseboards around the floor

7) The mess: Sand the entire ceiling. Apply more drywall compound as a "skim coat". Sand, sand, sand. There was drywall dust EVERYWHERE.

8) Clean the dust really well to avoid getting it on paint.

9) Wipe off the ceilings to remove dust.

10) Apply caulk to any gaps or cracks in the trim/molding (this made SUCH a huge difference in the final look! I wish I'd known this trick years ago)

11) Prime ceiling x2 coats

12) Paint ceiling x3 coats (I do not recommend Sherwin Williams' ceiling paint--we used so much of it, and I still am not totally happy with it)

13) Prime the walls (I used Kilz stain blocker latex primer)

14) Paint the walls with two coats of Sherwin Williams' Cashmere Finish latex in the color "Cityscape" (dark gray). Because we no longer had crown molding, I had to learn to "cut in" the paint at the ceiling. This was really fun to learn and practice! It's not perfect, but I am pretty impressed with how well it turned out.

15) Tape off the paint around the window and door casings and jambs

16) Prime the wood for the casings with Kilz oil-based primer

17) Paint two coats of Sherwin Williams' oil-based paint in "Spare White" color on the door jambs, and the window/door casings. All trim, basically.

18) Remove the standard "trailer" door from the master bedroom and replace just the door slab, and paint it "spare white".

19) Remove carpet and replace with luxury vinyl planking (we bought this one from Home Depot)

20) Replace furniture--I sold some things on Facebook Marketplace, and I found a few treasures on there to replace what we needed. I bought a very cool mid-century modern sofa and a chair that looks like it should be part of a set, but they were totally separate!

I bought a very nice quality and comfortable Sherrill sofa for $50. I bought a wool Pottery Barn rug to match the sofa and chair for $50 as well. I was going to replace the dark wood with lighter colors, like we did with the rest of the house, but I rather like it. So, we decided to go with the dark stained wood in the living room only.

I also found a Pottery Barn bench/console--I was going to use it for our shoes, but it was WAY too nice to do that--the original price on it was $599, and I paid $60 on Facebook Marketplace!

21) I hung a couple of my dad's paintings on the walls.

22) We arranged the furniture in a new way that was able to get the treadmill out of the way. The treadmill is an eyesore, and we always used to keep it in the dining room (and the dining room table was in the kitchen).

Since we got rid of the huge sectional, we cozied up the living room by pulling the far side coach inward, and then putting the treadmill behind it. You can still see the treadmill, but it's not nearly as noticeable, and it's in a great spot. We kept the three end tables and got rid of the coffee table. Joey got to keep his dog bed ;)

23) Replaced our old ceiling fan

I think that about covers it! This was the easiest room to do, believe it or not. Just wait until you see the kitchen.

Here are the "after" photos I took of the living room (it is nearly impossible to keep a husband, two kids, two cats, and a dog from messing things up! My house is never this clean.) My brother, Brian, let me borrow his "fancy" camera to use a wide-angle lens so that you can see more. So, if anything looks slightly warped, it's because of my non-existent photography skills.

I can't even describe how much I love it! It's still taking some getting used to. But the kitchen is the biggest change of all, and I'm super excited to share those pics!

Here are some photos of the process of making over the living room...

And for the grand finale... Jerry finished the floors! After that, I just had to cut, attach, and paint the baseboards along the floor. 

LIVING ROOM BEFORE (Jerry was about to do a cartwheel here, haha):


I did start keeping a list of all of the projects and the whole process from start to finish... you can find that page here: DIY Home Makeover

March 10, 2019

Mock Max and Erma's Chicken Tortilla Soup

Mock Max and Erma's Chicken Tortilla Soup

I did not mean for this to post today. My brain is in the gutter. Sorry for the double post! This is a mock-Max & Erma's Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe that I started making ages ago. I serve it at get-togethers, because everyone always raves about it. It's super fast to throw it together, and delicious! I always get a lot of compliments when I serve it at a get-together on a cold day.

Here is a printer-friendly recipe!

Chicken Tortilla Soup

1 onion, chopped
1 can cream of chicken
1 can cream of mushroom
1 can cream of celery
1 can fiesta nacho cheese soup (or if you can't find that, you can use cheddar cheese soup)
1 quart of chicken broth
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 cup salsa
1 small can diced green chiles
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. red chili powder
1 pound chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (it's way better if you take the time to shred them, instead of chop them)

Add all ingredients to a large soup pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer one hour. Top with tortilla chips, avocado, sour cream, salsa, etc. Makes about 8 servings.

March 10, 2019

Basic Hummus Recipe

Basic Hummus Recipe

Everybody seems to have their own hummus recipe. This is my version. I love garlic--so this is very garlic-y. If you're not a huge fan of the garlic, just use one small clove. I like to use 3-4 big cloves.

Here is a printer-friendly version!

Basic Hummus

1-3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 can chickpeas/garbanzo beans, drained
2 Tbsp. water
1 lemon (juice and zest)
2 Tbsp. tahini (sesame seed paste)
3 Tbsp. olive oil  (seems like a lot, but it makes the hummus REALLY smooth and rich)
salt to taste
paprika to sprinkle on top

In a food processor, put in the cloves of garlic and process until they are finely chopped. Add the drained chick peas, water, lemon juice and zest, and tahini. Process on high until smooth, stopping to scrape the sides of the processor once or twice. While the processor is running, drizzle in the olive oil. Run the processor for another minute or two, until everything is combined and smooth. Sprinkle paprika over the top.

Makes 8 (1/4 cup) servings. Per serving:  110 calories, 8 grams fat, 3 grams fiber, 8 grams carbs, 3 grams protein.

March 08, 2019

Giant Chalkboard Clock: A DIY Tutorial for How to Make Your Own Wall Clock

How to Make Your Own Giant Chalkboard Clock

This chalkboard wall clock was a ridiculous idea that I came up with after I'd ordered a DIY clock that arrived with defective pieces. I'd been searching for months for a huge clock, and couldn't find what I was looking for. Finally, I ordered one of those DIY wall clocks from Amazon, where you put adhesive numbers on the wall and add the hardware. (Here is the link, although I'm not saying I recommend this one--like I said, the numbers were defective--but I did end up using the mechanical part of the clock, which works great.)

I received the box and was super bummed that some of the numbers were defective. I packaged it to send it back, when I had the idea that I could probably just make my own numbers to put on the wall. The ones that came with it weren't anything super special. As I pondered a color scheme, I remembered that I had almost a full container of chalkboard paint leftover from one of my kitchen cabinets.

So, I introduce you to the gigantic painted-on wall clock--fully functioning, and a chalkboard to boot! I thought the chalkboard would be fun to write out the day's schedule. For my family, it has turned into our "what's for dinner and when?" clock. My kids are CONSTANTLY asking me when is dinner and what I'm making. It drives me crazy! (My family likes to add their own things on there, too, which is helpful).

How to Make Your Own Giant Chalkboard Wall Clock

Anyway, I've had some requests for a tutorial, so I will do my best. I didn't take a ton of pictures along the way, so I will do what I can with what I have. Also, this would have been much easier to follow if I had done a video tutorial. But because it was a make-up-as-you-go-along sort of thing, I wasn't thinking ahead.

I ended up making a ton of diagrams, and this has turned into the blog post that I have spent the longest amount of time working on. Haha! Hopefully, someone will use it.

Note: I started with primed and painted walls in a light gray color latex paint (Sherwin Williams' Cashmere in the color "Argos"). If your wall needs fresh paint or touching up, definitely do that beforehand.


-Wall paint for a clock border (I used Sherwin Williams' Cashmere in "Cityscape"--dark gray)
-Chalkboard paint (a very small amount--I bought a quart at Lowe's and only used 1/4 of it)
-Oil-based primer and paint for the numbers of the clock, whatever color you'd like*
-Wooden yard stick
-Protractor (the cheap plastic ones you can get for a dollar in the school supplies section)
-Drill bit (you want it to be small, but it doesn't have to be an exact size; you want the tip of a sharp pencil to fit in there without a lot of wiggle room. I used a 3/32" bit.)
-Pencil with a sharp tip
-12 pins (like you would use for sewing--not needles, just pins with a head on them)**
-1 tiny nail
-Good quality paint brush (1-1.5 inches or so)
-Stencil brush (I didn't use one, but as I explain later, it would be VERY handy)
-A tiny paint brush for touch-ups (I used an old eyeshadow brush)
-Number stencils (I printed out these ones)
-The mechanical part of a clock (I bought this $20 clock from Amazon and just used the mechanical piece). I'm sure you can use any sort of mechanical piece from a clock.
-Laser Level (I highly recommend a laser level--it made spacing out the numbers so much easier! I cannot find the one that I have, but this one is very similar. I got mine at Lowe's, and I use it all the time!)

-A small flockfoam paint roller (see pic below) - This will give you a much smoother finish than other rollers or brushes when using chalkboard paint. I used a brush on our cupboard, and the finish isn't nearly as smooth. The employee at Sherwin Williams recommended this:

*I used oil-based paint for my numbers because that's what I had on hand. I am not sure how it would work with latex paint.

**Note: I marked the spots for my numbers BEFORE I painted the chalkboard paint on. This was partly due to the fact that only after I made the marks did I notice that the clock numbers I'd purchased were defective, but I also later realized that it would have been difficult to mark the number placement after painting anyway. This is where the pins come in handy. I'll explain below.

Read through all these instructions and look at the diagrams first; everything will make more sense if you take it all in as a whole instead of each step.

Marking the Circles

1) Determine where you want the very center of your clock to be, and mark it with a tiny dot on the wall. Make sure you are SURE about the placement, because this dot will be the center (literally) of all the steps from here on out.

2) Using the drill and tiny drill bit, you are going to drill four holes into the yard stick. At one end, you will drill a hole that will be for the center of your clock. Then, the other three are for a pencil guide to place your numbers, the inner edge of the border, and the outer edge of the border (respectively).

In the guide below:

The distance from the yellow hole to the green hole will be HALF the final width of your clock. So, if you want your clock to be 50 inches wide, then the yellow and green holes should be 25 inches apart. This is important, so choose wisely ;)

The space between the green hole and the pink hole is how wide your border will be. If you want your border 5 inches wide, then place the holes 5 inches apart, for example.

The purple hole is simply a guide for placing your stencils--this circle will go through the very center of your numbers--so, again, choose wisely.
(For MY clock, which is about 70 inches in diameter:
I placed the green hole at about 1", the pink hole at about 3", and the purple hole at about 10". The yellow hole is at about 35.5". My measurements weren't exact... I just eyeballed where I wanted them.)

Drill Guild for How to Make Your Own Giant Chalkboard Wall Clock

The holes that you drill should be just big enough to fit the tip of your pencil. If they are too big, the pencil line might get sloppy.

3) Using the hammer, tap the tiny nail through the hole (marked "center" in the diagram) in the yard stick into the mark on the wall where the center of the clock will be. Now, you should have a yard stick hanging from a small nail in the wall.

4) Insert the pencil tip into the green hole (green on the guide above--that is just for reference). Now, while holding the pencil tip in the hole, simply make a large circle on the wall by rotating the yard stick on the nail 360 degrees. You will have a perfect circle when you are done. This circle will be the size of the entire clock.

Again, make sure this is the size you want your clock to be.

5) Leaving the yardstick on the wall, insert the pencil into the pink hole, and repeat the last step. Use the yardstick as a guide to make a perfect circle inside of the first circle.

You should have two large circles on the wall--a large one and a smaller one just inside of it. (The space between these will become the border of the clock.)

6) Next, do the same thing with the purple hole. (This circle is a guide for where you will place your numbers).

Now you should have a center nail and three large penciled circles on the wall. You can remove the yardstick--you're done with it now.

Marking the numbers' placement

This is the most tedious, time-consuming part!

1) Next, you'll be using the laser level, pencil, and protractor. The protractor will likely have a little hole in the bottom center for alignment (see photo below), with a horizontal line on each side. Pull the nail from the clock center and use the nail to attach the protractor to the wall (through the same hole in the wall).

2) Now, you'll want to make the protractor perfectly level. Using the laser level, line up a perfectly level line from one end of the protractor to the other. The lines at the 0 degrees and 180 degrees should be level with the line of the laser. (see photo below)

(This was very hard to do with one hand and take a photo with the other... but you can see a very faint red laser line that goes right across the horizontal line on the protractor. And the little bubble of air in the level is centered, so we know the protractor is aligned correctly)

Here is what it would look like without the protractor in the way. (If it looks unlevel, it's just because of the cropping of the photo. Trust me, it is level.):

Once you have the protractor perfectly level, hold it against the wall firmly so it doesn't budge. You are done with the laser level for the moment.

4) While holding the protractor against the wall, use your pencil to place small marks every 30 degrees.

(Again, I did this one handed while I took a picture--pretty impressive, right?!)

Eventually, you will need to turn the protractor upside down so you can do the bottom. Just make sure you line it up perfectly by using the guide lines on the protractor (there is a line that runs from 0-180 degrees--line that up with your marks).

Continue using the protractor to mark spots every 30 degrees until you have a mark for all 12 numbers. See the diagram below--the pencil marks are 30 degrees apart.

Making the Pencil Marks

5) Use the laser to create a straight line from the center of the clock through the pencil marks you just made, and all the way to the "purple" (inner) circle. Then mark a little dot on the "purple" circle where the laser line meets the circle. THAT DOT is going to mark where the *center* of your number will go. (It's circled in green in the diagram below. I will explain the pins afterward.)

How to Make Your Own Giant Chalkboard Wall Clock

Do this for all 12 of the pencil marks you made. Once you've transferred all 12 dots to the purple circle, then you can erase the ones that are close to the protractor (the aqua ones above).

Here is where the pins come in handy. Because you've marked all these spots, you don't want to cover them up with black chalkboard paint. Insert a pin (I tapped it gently with a hammer) into the marks you made for each number, 1-12. (Again, use the pins on the "PURPLE" circle--you can erase the other ones once you mark the purple circle.)

Also, make sure you keep the small nail in the center of the clock--you want that to be marked, always.

Use the laser all the way around, lining up the center of the clock with the 30, 60, 90, etc. degrees marks and making a little dot on the large "purple" guide circle.

How to Make Your Own Giant Chalkboard Wall Clock

Once you have pins placed on the inner pencil line (the "purple" line), you are ready to paint. Leave the nail in the center of the clock, and leave all the pins in the wall. DO NOT REMOVE THEM. You are going to paint over them with the chalkboard paint.

Time to Paint

1) You can do the border first or the chalkboard paint first, it's up to you. I chose to do the border. I used dark gray latex paint and a 1.5-inch brush to fill in the border of the clock (the space between the two outer circles--"green" and "pink").

I painted this freehand, so you can see it isn't perfect (I am fine with that). But I would suggest watching a few YouTube videos about how to "cut in" paint when you're painting walls. Using that technique helped me SO much when I was freehand painting the walls against trim and the ceiling.

Freehand Painting a Border

2) When the border is filled in, then it's time for the chalkboard paint. I would use a brush to do the edges, just like you did for the border. Then, use the roller to fill it all in. Be VERY CAREFUL not to disturb the pins. I used a brush around those.

3) Once it's all dry, apply a second coat of paint (per the instructions on the can... I think mine said to wait four hours).

Now, you should have a large circular chalkboard with a border, and there will be a nail in the center. There will be 12 pins spaced evenly (every 30 degrees) inside of the chalkboard.

Painting the Chalkboard

Make sure it is all dry before continuing. I would wait 24 hours just to be safe.

Priming the Chalkboard

This is weird, and I never knew it was necessary until just recently when I used chalkboard paint for the first time!

1) Once the chalkboard paint is applied, you have to "prime" it before using it. To do this, you turn a piece of chalk on its side and then rub the chalk over the entire space, covering it all with chalk. I think I went through about six whole pieces of chalk to do this!

Priming the Chalkboard

2) Once it's all filled in, then you can erase it. (I chose to prime it before painting on my numbers; I'm not sure if it matters, but it worked well for me this way, so that's what I would do.)

The Stencils

1) Place each stencil over the corresponding pin, with the pin in the very center of the number itself. (If you place the numbers to the side, top, or bottom of the pin, they will be all off-center. Make sure the pin goes through the center of the number. In the "11" below, I had to cut out a small square to fit the number over the pin.)

2) Tape the edges of the stencil to the wall. I wouldn't remove the pins until you are done placing all of the numbers. You want to step back and make sure it looks even.

How to Make Your Own Giant Chalkboard Wall Clock

I quickly used the laser level to make sure the numbers themselves weren't crooked, but you could honestly just eyeball it, because I doubt it would be noticeable if a number is slightly tilted.

Step back and it should look like this:

How to Make Your Own Giant Chalkboard Wall Clock

When you are satisfied with the number placement, THEN you can remove the pins.

3) From here, it's just about stenciling the numbers on with paint. First, I painted the primer on. See my notes below. I used a small paint brush, and it was a big mess. I would definitely recommend using a stencil brush. (A stencil brush is very thick and round with stiff bristles. You dab it over and over again over the stencil with a small amount of paint, rather than stroking it on.)

How to Make Your Own Giant Chalkboard Wall Clock

I made several mistakes with the numbers, and due to trial and error, here is my advice:
  • Use a stencil brush and dab both the primer and paint on with that. A stencil brush would have solved all the issues I had regarding the numbers!
  • Do NOT use spray paint. I did this and the paint was way too thin and drippy. I don't have a photo from the immediate result, because I panicked before I could take one. It didn't cover well, and it looked terrible. I ended up having to spray the paint into a small plastic cup, and then use a brush to dab it on. It was a big fat mess and I cried real tears.)
  • Use a primer first--one or two coats, per instructions on the can.
  • Then apply the color (again, I'd use a stencil brush and dab it on). I used an old eyeshadow brush to fix how terrible the numbers looked! I spent a lot of time trying to keep a steady hand and paint over my mistakes). 

4) Once the numbers are stenciled on, then you can carefully remove the stencils. You'll need to make a few touch ups and fill in the gaps in some of the numbers (like the numbers above).

5) Once all the numbers look the way you want them to, it's time to place the mechanical part on the wall. To do this, you'll have to just follow the instructions per the manufacturer. The end goal is to make sure that the center of the mechanical part is dead center with that tiny nail you still have in the center of your clock.

As long as the mechanical part is dead center, then your clock should work smoothly! I primed and painted the mechanics orange. I took the hands off of it first, then painted and waited for it to dry before putting it back together. I made sure to cover the working parts with tape so paint didn't get inside).

Aaaaannnnnddd... if you managed to make it through all of these instructions, you should have a huge, functioning, chalkboard wall clock :)

I hope I explained this well. It wasn't nearly as hard as I make it sound in this tutorial. The biggest headache is just from aligning where the numbers will need to go. (Instead of using pins, you could probably even paint the chalkboard first, and then use chalk to mark the spots. This is just the way that I chose to do it, based on what was working/not working out.)

Good luck! It was a lot of work, but I LOVE the clock, and it's definitely the center of attention when people see it. It's very unique and fun :)

If you DO happen to make one, or something similar, make sure you share a picture with me! I'd love to see how it turns out.

How to Make Your Own Giant Chalkboard Wall Clock

How to Make Your Own Giant Chalkboard Wall Clock

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