November 29, 2018

DIY: Making My Own Countertops (Spoiler: I did it!)

Since this post seems to be getting a ton of traffic from the pet feeding station on Pinterest, I decided to make a tutorial for that alone. You can find that post here.

Oh, man... the last few days in my house have been crazy and stressful. When we started our DIY kitchen/dining room/living room renovation in August, I was super psyched about it. And I have loved every single moment of it. Seriously!

It really sucks that I got carpal tunnel syndrome in my hands (which, thankfully, is no longer painful--I still have numbness, but it's getting better now that I'm done with the painting and other tedious repetitive motions). But as far as the "work" of this renovation? It's been super fun!

I don't want to discredit Jerry, because he has certainly helped me, but I have honestly done about 90% of the work (even Jerry corrects people when they assume that he did it). Jerry works a full time time job, so it's only natural that I would do the bulk of this home reno. I only say this because it makes me feel SO good when I look at it and I can see how much better it looks. I did that! There are lots of things that didn't go perfectly, but I've learned a ton.

I feel like I could be a drywaller, painter, cabinet maker, countertop maker, and now plumber.

Yes, plumber.

Which is the subject of the nightmare of the last few days. You guys... I didn't cry at ALL during any of the work I've done. When something didn't go smoothly, I just kept working on it and found it fun to find the solution. But on Monday, I had a total tantrum and cried like a three year old who just wants to drink pop for breakfast.

So, I'll get into that in a moment. But first, the countertops!

Remember when I said I didn't really tell people I was going to do this until it was too late, because I didn't want people talking me out of it or telling me all the things that could go wrong, or telling me all sorts of conflicting advice? So, I did my research for weeks and I finally took the plunge.

I made my own countertops.

First of all, I didn't even know that people could do that! In retrospect, of course people can do it. But I'd never heard of anyone doing it.

I knew I wanted laminate countertops. I know it's not the "popular" choice, but I've always sort of chosen things that aren't really cool. I like laminate! I like the feel of it better than granite. And thankfully, laminate is very inexpensive relative to granite or other options. I was also surprised at just how simple the whole process was!

There are a thousand tutorials out there, but I'll probably put one together just because I'm super excited that I did it and I lived to tell about it. So I won't write all the details on this post, but I will share a few pictures:

Yes, the only photo I could find that really showed the sink was with Eli in it! (Ahem, about 10 years ago...)

This next before and after photo isn't entirely accurate... the "before" was after we'd painted the edges white. A few months ago, they were just the same old wood color that they were above, like in the photo with Eli.

Don't the new ones look awesome?! I LOVE THEM. They were super cheap to make (I'll eventually write a post with an itemized expense list for this whole project, in case anyone is curious). I think it cost roughly $300 to make five (rather large) countertops.

Soooo... I got the countertops done, and after making them, I bought a new sink. Our old sink was SO small and I hated it. It was a double-basin sink (which is common, but I really wanted it to be one large sink without dividers) and it was very shallow.

I assumed that going from two drains to one would be simple! Less pipes to deal with.

I was completely wrong. And of course, living in a manufactured home (a.k.a. trailer, double wide, etc.) came back to bite us again--because even the pipes aren't standard!

I installed the sink into the countertop, and the new faucet, and all I had to do was connect the dishwasher drain hose to the garbage disposal, and connect the garbage disposal to the main drain. I read about this for hours and watched YouTube videos galore (I hate YouTube) but I felt confident that I could do it. Easy peasy.

Until I unhooked everything and realized that the main drain was a different size from the P-trap (another term I learned--it's a necessary part of the tubes that run out of the sink). They were also different materials--PVC (the new pipes I got) versus ABS (the old pipes). They are incompatible, unless you use a special plumber's cement that is specifically for connecting the two. Luckily, I found the cement.

But for the life of me, I could NOT find any sort of adaptor that would connect the two pipes. Meanwhile, I had no kitchen sink--I'd had to turn off the water and electricity going to it. And stupid me, I didn't think to run the dishwasher or the garbage disposal before I started this. So it was REALLY gross. My house smelled horrible.

During all of this, I was trying to connect the garbage disposal to the sink. To go with the shiny new sink, I got a shiny new flange (the drain thingy that sits in the sink and leads to the garbage disposal). Well, after HOURS of trying to connect the two, it just wasn't working. It wasn't mechanically possible. I was so frustrated. And that's when I finally broke down and had a tantrum. It was the only time I cried while doing one of these DIY projects over the last few months!

After much texting, Googling, YouTubing, crying, reading, fiddling, and screaming, I finally realized that the new flange just wasn't compatible with the garbage disposal. According to the package, it was compatible, but I think our disposal was an older model or something. It was set up differently.

The photos I was texting to Jerry and my brother, Brian, trying to figure this out, hahaha:

I tried the old set up, with the old flange, and you know what? I got the garbage disposal connected. All I needed after that was to connect the disposal to the drain.

Friends, I drove to Lowe's a total of seven times in two days (Lowe's is 20 minutes away) to get different pipes that I thought would fit. I was texting Brian, who knows everything DIY/home improvement related, and he tried to help. Finally, I texted Jerry at work and told him to stop on his way home from work and buy EVERY GOT-DAMN ADAPTER that Lowe's has. And he did.

You guys... I kid you not, not a single adapter would fit!

So, early yesterday morning, I went to a different (smaller, more specialized) hardware store and I brought some parts with me. I showed them the pipes and said I need to make this pipe fit in that pipe. And they tried and tried, and finally... they were able to use three separate pieces of PVC to attach them.

The guy who worked there kept insisting that you cannot combine PVC with ABS, but I'd done my research and I even bought the special cement to do it. When I got home, I had to apply primer to the PVC and then the plumbers cement and meld them together; and then I had to join the PVC to the ABS (which went perfectly, thank God!).

And eventually, I had a kitchen sink that drained to a garbage disposal that drained to the main drain under the sink. Woo hoo! I reconnected the water and electricity, connected the dishwasher drain, and crossed my fingers.

And it worked. I cannot tell you the relief I felt!

The first thing I did was start a load of dishes in the dishwasher and then wash the rest by hand. I have never loved doing dishes--but at that moment, I was SO happy!

Here is a  photo of the shiny new sink:

Now that the countertops and sink are done, the next major projects are the island (I am modifying that quite a bit, so it doesn't look good right now--it actually looks worse than before we started, hahaha) and the floor. We spent all of our extra money this month, so we probably won't get to do the floor until January.

Yes, we've actually managed to stay debt-free through all of this! It hasn't been easy... but we are tackling one project at a time, and we aren't buying things we don't need yet. (For example, we need new duct registers for the floor, but clearly we can make do with what we have until after the flooring is done.) So, we are just buying things as we need them. Our biggest expense so far has actually been the paint! (We've literally spent probably about $600 on paint--CRAZY, right?! And that was with Sherwin Williams' 40% off sale!).

So far, though, our projects have included:

Removing two ridiculous walls and a few cupboards
Removing the popcorn ceiling and refinishing the ceiling
Taping and mudding the joints between walls and ceiling for all three rooms plus the hallway
Painting all of the walls
Painting all of the cupboards
Painting all of the trim around windows, doors, etc.
Installing new window blinds
Buying and installing new interior doors
Making a pet feeding station(!)
Installing a new ceiling fan/light in the living room
Making new laminate countertops
Installing a new sink/plumbing

I've even sold a few things that we were planning to get rid of anyways--like our coffee table. I listed it on Facebook and sold it for $100! So we are using the money from the things we sell to fund some more of our projects.

Anyway, things are going great--just super busy!--and I am SO excited to get more done so I can share more progress. But I will post an update about the intermittent fasting this weekend--since tomorrow is Day 30 of 30!

(By the way, I just realized I never shared a picture of the "pet feeding station" once I was done! Here it is...)

Cute, right? I have the dog treats, cat treats, and catnip on the shelf, Joey's food and water bowls on the bottom (they aren't gross, honest, I have no idea why they look like that in the photo!) and the cat food on top. The hole is because Estelle likes to climb through ;)

November 25, 2018

RECIPE: Simple Homemade Granola

I never knew just how easy it was to make granola until I tried this. It's such a simple recipe, but it's SO good! And very versatile. My favorite way to eat it is to core an apple and cut into quarters, then spread with peanut butter and press the peanut butter side into the granola. You could also put it in yogurt, or cereal, etc.

Here is a printer-friendly PDF of Simple Homemade Granola

Simple Homemade Granola

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup water
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
4 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 275. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine sugar and water. Microwave on high for a couple of minutes to dissolve the sugar. Stir in the vanilla and salt.

Add the oats and almonds and stir until they are coated with the sugar mixture. Spread thinly onto the baking sheet, and bake for 45 minutes. It'll feel a bit pliable when you take it out of the oven, but it'll be crunchy when it cools.

November 24, 2018

TUTORIAL: How to Remove a Textured Ceiling (Popcorn, Stomped, etc)

Back in August, Jerry and I (well, okay, it was just I) had the crazy idea to knock down a wall in the kitchen. It wasn't a necessary wall, and it was very small. It was just there to hold up some cupboards.

Once we did that, I loved it so much! And that led to the idea that I wanted to get rid of our ugly textured ceilings. We live in a manufactured home (a.k.a. trailer, a.k.a. double wide, etc.) and textured ceilings are pretty standard. Our ceilings had a "stomped" texture, but the most common is a popcorn ceiling. So I'll refer to it as a popcorn ceiling here, because the process is the same.

First, if you're thinking of removing a popcorn ceiling, make sure you are prepared for your house to be a complete MESS for a while. There will be drywall dust everywhere.

The removal process is actually very cheap to do, which is a bonus. (If you don't already have the tools, someone you know surely will let you borrow them!) And overall, it's simple! I was very surprised at just how simple the process of removing the popcorn ceiling actually was. Here is how we removed the popcorn ceiling and then finished it to be a smooth, "normal" looking ceiling.

(FYI - Our ceiling hadn't been painted. If your ceiling is painted, there may be a different way of removing it, so do your research first.)

Supplies Needed to Remove the Popcorn Ceiling:
(These are Amazon affiliate links)

Spray bottle (for water)
1-1/2-inch spackling knife
4-6 inch drywall knife
Plastic sheeting to cover pretty much everything but the ceiling*
Ladder tall enough to reach the ceiling easily

Supplies Needed to Repair/Refinish the Ceiling:

Spackling to fill in the inevitable nicks that will happen when you scrape
Drywall lightweight joint compound (this is different from spackling)
Drywall knives in 6-inch, 8-inch, AND 10-12 inch lengths
Drywall compound mud pan
Drywall sandpaper screens
Drywall sandpaper holder
Safety glasses
Dust masks or respirator
Drop cloths (here, you can use old bed sheets or cloths)
Good quality (Purdy) 2-inch paint brush
Lambskin 1/2-inch nap roller cover with roller*
Paint tray
4-5-ft pole to connect to the paint roller
Kilz Latex Base Primer
Ceiling Paint


*Cloth sheets won't work here. We bought some cheap bed sheets from Salvation Army to cover things with, but the drywall texture that falls down will be wet, and will make the cloths wet.

*DEFINITELY pay a few extra bucks for the lambs wool roller cover. It is amazing, and I will never paint with anything else again. The paint goes on thick and covers really well. You can rinse it off after each use and use it again and again if you take care of it. This was the best investment we made while painting!

*Don't be fooled by this tool! I bought one, at it was worthless.

To scrape off the popcorn ceiling:

1) Choose a small section to work with at a time, and cover the floor and/or any furniture with the plastic sheeting.

2) Stand on the ladder, and spray the section with water from the water bottle (I covered probably about a 3 ft x 3 ft section at a time). Be kind of generous while spraying... don't completely saturate it to where it's dripping to the floor, but a light spray won't be enough. Here is a short video of me scraping, and you'll see that it wasn't enough water. (When there is enough, it will scrape off like butter.)

3) Wait about 3-4 minutes to let the water soak in, and then using the 4-6 inch drywall knife, slide it along the ceiling at a slight angle. If the water has had enough time to soak in, the texture should fall off easily. You want to press firmly enough to go down as close as you can to the drywall (which is covered with brown paper), but not so hard that you are tearing up the drywall paper. You will likely make a few nicks in the paper here and there, which you can fill in later with spackling.

4) Continue to scrape the whole section that you've sprayed with water until you can see most of the smooth drywall underneath. It's not going to look "pretty" yet, but the texture should be gone and the ceiling should be mostly smooth.

5) Move the ladder and work on another section. Refill the water bottle as needed. Whenever you need to move the plastic sheet, you may want to dump the wet drywall in a garbage bag. It gets very heavy!

6) Once you have scrape the entire room, the ceiling will look kind of patchy and have little nicks in the drywall paper. When the ceiling is dry (it doesn't take long), use the spackling to fill in the nicks. Put a very small amount of spackling over the nick, and then hold the spackling knife at almost a 90 degree angle to the ceiling to scrape it flat. The spackling will stay in the nick, but will be flush with the ceiling. This will save a LOT of sanding later.

7) You will likely be able to see the seams in the ceiling where the sheets of drywall are held together. We had to go over these with drywall compound to fill them in a bit and make them flush with the rest of the ceiling. It sounded intimidating, but it wasn't as bad as I thought. By the end, I felt like a pro! ;)

To smooth the drywall seams:

1) Follow instructions on the drywall compound container; but if you use the one that I recommended above, it's pretty simple. I added a generous amount to the mud pan and then added a little water to thin it out some. It shouldn't be super thick and hard to spread. I would say it was about the texture of brownie batter(?).

2) Starting at one end of the seam, apply a generous amount of drywall compound (this will be thinner than spackling). Using the 6-inch drywall knife, spread the compound from the edge of the wall toward the center of the room about 12 inches or so (it will look a little sloppy, because there will clearly be excess compound on it). Then, take the 8-inch knife, and go over the same spot. This will make the compound spread out a little farther in each direction. Then use the 10-12 inch knife to go over it one more time.

What you are doing is filling in the small indentation that the drywall seams create, and you are making that flush with the rest of the ceiling so that the ceiling is flat. When you hold the 10-12 inch knife perpendicular to the seam, you shouldn't be able to see any light passing between the ceiling and the knife.

3) Continue to do this every couple of feet until you reach the end of the seam. By this point, the whole seam should be covered with a very smooth layer of compound that is flush with the ceiling. You'll likely need to sand it, but the better job that you do with the compound layer, the less sanding you'll need to do.

4) Finish all of the seams on the ceiling. At this point, your ceiling will look patchy--the seams will look whitish-gray from the compound, while the rest of the ceiling will look white-ish from where you scraped off the popcorn ceiling. It will basically look striped.

5) Now comes the really, really messy part. You will need safety glasses and a dust mask or respirator to keep from inhaling the drywall dust when sanding. You can use an electric sander, but we found that to be inefficient and WAY too messy. The drywall compound is too thin in most areas to sand without much control. We used drywall sanding screens on blocks with handles. And a fuckload of elbow grease!

6) Again, working in sections, sand the ceiling smooth. There will be a TON of dust. It will get everywhere, no matter how good of a job you think you are doing with controlling it. You'll want to gently sand over the entire ceiling until it's smooth. Keep in mind that paint will NOT cover up your mistakes. You really do need to take your time to do the sanding.

7) Once the sanding is done, clean up all the dust. (HAHAHA! We are still cleaning dust that we find in the most random places). With a lightly damp cloth, go over the ceiling one more time to make sure that there is no dust on it and that there aren't any more nicks to patch or bumps to sand.

8) Finally, using the paint roller, apply a layer of the Kilz primer. You'll be able to use the long handle for most spots, but when you get close to the wall, you'll need to use a brush. You'll also need to use the ladder to reach some spots. Basically, just get the entire ceiling covered with primer. (And make sure to invest in the lambskin roller cover!)

9) Let it dry, and then give it another coat of primer.

10) Let it dry, and then go over the whole thing with the ceiling paint. Twice.

(You may be able to get away with 1 coat of primer and/or 1 coat of paint, but we wanted to be safe and we did both. Actually, we are waiting to do our final coat of the ceiling paint until we are done with a few other things.)

Once it's dry, admire just how different your ceiling looks! We were THRILLED at the results. We also had to remove crown molding from each room and then tape and mud the seams between the walls and the ceiling, which was a very tough job--I'll save that for another post. But the difference is amazing!

Things I wish we knew before we started:

It's going to be SO SO SO messy. No matter what precautions you take.

It will be tedious. But it will be WORTH IT.

There is a learning curve when applying drywall compound. But the more you practice, the better you'll get at it.

Sanding is tough work! My brother kept telling me to make sure that I took my time with the drywall compound so that I would have less to sand later. I didn't really heed his advice, and I regretted it when I started sanding.

Make sure that you scrape the popcorn ceiling down to the drywall. On our first pass, we didn't go down far enough (see video above), and we later noticed there was still a little texture in random places.

Using quality brushes and the lambskin roller cover made SUCH a huge difference! It was so much easier to apply and it covered much better than using any other rollers/brushes. I can't recommend them enough. I've linked to all of the products at the beginning of the post. (They are Amazon affiliate links, so it'd be awesome if you use them if you're planning to buy the stuff anyway... because I'll get a small commission for recommending them. Of course, I only recommend things I really honestly believe in!)

November 22, 2018

Intermittent Fasting Trial, Week 3 Results

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today starts week four of my intermittent fasting experiment. It's been three weeks, and I've learned quite a bit about myself while doing it, even though I haven't exactly gotten the results I was looking for.

My main reason for wanting to try it was to drop the weight I've gained. My starting weight was my highest weight in the last eight years--162.4. After the first week of intermittent fasting, I actually gained 0.4 pounds, bringing me to 162.8. Last week, I lost the 0.4 that I'd gained, and was back to my starting weight of 162.4.

I again made some changes, and was hoping to see some real progress this week. When I weighed in today, I was... 162.4. On the nose. I honestly couldn't maintain my weight this perfect if I tried!

But clearly, my goal is not to maintain my weight, but to lose it. I am trying not to feel frustrated, but it's discouraging to do so much work and not see any results. I've been eating pretty healthy--certainly more so than I was before. This week, I had reduced my eating window to 4 pm to 8 pm. I stuck with that for five out of seven days... there were a couple of days where I went over 8 pm.

I even started running again this week--I ran on Friday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday mornings.

I don't know how else I can change things up this week to hopefully make some progress. I really don't want to reduce my eating window any more. My guess is that I'm probably eating too many calories, though. I could always count calories, but then that defeats the whole purpose of intermittent fasting (for me, anyway).

I have noticed some things I really like about intermittent fasting, though, so next week I will write a full post about all of my thoughts of the trial.

Despite feeling discouraged, here is my plan for this week (my fourth and final week of this trial):

Keep the eating window to four hours. However, I think I'm going to change this to 5-9 instead of 4-8. I like eating at night, so I think it will help keep me from snacking past my eating window. Waiting until 5:00 to eat will be challenging, but it's only an hour past what I have been waiting, so I'm sure I can do it.

I'm going to have to be very conscious about how much I'm eating. I am not going to count calories, but I am at least going to make sure my portions aren't huge.

I'm going to continue running, but instead of aiming for Monday through Friday, I'm going to aim for three days a week--without going more than two days between runs. That was my general rule of thumb for years, and it worked out well. I really like the heart rate training, so I'll continue with that.

I'm hoping that I'll see some progress next week. If not, I'm not sure what I will do! I will likely have to start counting calories if I want to lose weight; something I really don't want to do, so I'll have to decide if it's worth it to me.

It's interesting... from what I've read, this would be a great way to get my weight back down! But it just seems to be really difficult for me. I still hope that I'll find the "sweet spot" that works for my body!

November 20, 2018

Heart Rate Training - A Baseline Test to Get Started

We have snow here! I feel like it is way too early in the year for snow.

Yesterday, Brian had to go to my parents' house to work on Becky's car, and he brought Luke with him. I dressed warmly and then walked over there with Joey so we could see Luke. He is SO cute--he gets even cuter every time I see him.

Right now, he's always asking, "That?" and pointing at things, wanting to know what they are. And yesterday, he kept saying "Joe?", wanting to know where Joey was at all times. We went into the backyard to let Joey run down to the lake.

Joey was running full speed, super excited, and as soon as his paws hit the water, he stopped and you could see he was playing out in his head if it was too cold to get in ;)

He walked around in the water a little, which was comical because he was always holding one paw out of the water and standing on three legs.

Anyways, I ran on the treadmill yesterday, and I wore the foot pod this time. The pace ended up being even crazier than on Friday. I was running based on my heart rate, keeping it under 144 bpm. But check out this graph of my pace:

WHAT? (I have no idea what that blue line means, either).

I'm sure that the numbers on the treadmill aren't correct, either. So, I will just have to ignore the pace on my Garmin from here on out when I'm on the treadmill, and simply run based on my heart rate. Whenever my heart rate gets over 144, then I'll drop the speed a little; if it gets lower than about 138, then I'll bump the speed up a notch.

In order to see whether I'm making progress, however, I decided to do a baseline run today outside (to get an accurate pace). The whole goal was to run for 30 minutes while keeping my heart rate under 144 bpm.

I was fully expecting to have to walk quite a bit to lower my heart rate, but I managed surprisingly well, and didn't have to walk at all. I set the Garmin to beep if my heart rate hit 145, so I would know to slow down (without constantly looking at my watch). It only beeped at me a few times.

I was very surprised when I had to pick up the pace in the second mile because my heart rate was dropping. Usually, it's the opposite: the longer I run at a given pace, the higher my heart rate will climb.

That spike in the middle was when I tried to take a photo while I was running, and apparently, my heart rate goes up when I'm fumbling with my phone and gloves ;)

This is a cool way of looking at my heart rate, too--it shows by color about what range it's in. The blue is where it was low, at around 137 bpm. And the brown is where I got to the high end at 144 bpm.

(The app I used is called "ConnectStats", by the way. It shows so much more info than Garmin Connect, which excites the nerd in me.)

Anyway, I really love heart rate training! I find the runs to actually be enjoyable because it doesn't feel so hard. I'll have to remember to dress extra warm if I run outside, however, because I didn't even break a sweat today. I was freezing the whole time! If I was running hard, I would have been a lot warmer.

I've gotten some questions recently about heart rate training, so I will start writing a post all about that. I miss writing about running! Even during my hiatus, I enjoyed talking about and writing about all things running. And even though I don't run like I used to, I'm still a certified running coach with running on my mind a lot of the time.

So... anyone have running questions? Ask away! I'll answer them in a post soon :)

November 18, 2018

Story of My Life

When it comes to spending money on "needs", why does it all seem to happen at one time?!

We've been without a ceiling light/fan in the living room ever since we scraped off the popcorn ceiling a few months ago. I wanted to wait until after the walls were painted and we decided for sure what colors we were going to use for our makeover.

Finally, I bought a ceiling fan/light last week at Menards when they were doing an 11% rebate on everything in the store. I brought it home and installed it (I LOVE putting things together and installing things like that--it's literally entertainment for me). After I was done, I turned the power breaker back on, and then pressed the remote button--and the light didn't work.

I was completely dumbfounded. I'd followed the instructions right to the letter, and I couldn't imagine what I did wrong! I ended up undoing everything and then starting from scratch to make sure I didn't miss anything. Flipped on the light again--and nothing!

I called my brother, Brian, who is really good with electrical work, and he came over the next morning. He tested the wires with a fancy thing-a-ma-bob and discovered that the remote transmitter for the fan was bad, so it wasn't my fault. But still, I wasted about six hours of my life working on that!

Meanwhile, Noah got locked out of his computer. Every time he would put in his password, it wasn't accepted. We discovered that it was because caps lock was permanently on, and it just wouldn't type lower case letters. The closest Apple store is in Toledo, which happens to be where Menards is.

On the day that I bought the ceiling fan from Menards, I bought the rest of the stuff that we need for our kitchen, and the total came to $700!! I know it will be worth it when it's done, but good grief.

When I brought Noah's computer to the Apple store, they messed around with it and discovered that it needed a whole new shell, which would take 5-7 business days and cost $240. Ugh.

So anyway, yesterday I got notification that Noah's computer was ready to be picked up. And it just so happened that yesterday morning, Jerry's phone wouldn't charge (he has an iPhone 6). AND, Noah somehow got locked out of his phone when someone at school got his password! 😩

So then I had to go to Menards to return the fan, pick up Noah's computer from Apple, and get help with Jerry's and Noah's phones. (This is my life.)

When I went to the Apple store, they checked out Jerry's phone and discovered that the little charging electrodes things were crushed... and that his phone was basically garbage. He needed a replacement.

I thought they'd just clean it out or something and it'd be fine! But nope, he needed a new phone. A new iPhone 6 was $300, which is crazy. Jerry's been wanting to upgrade his phone for a long time, but we've been waiting until we finish this house stuff and have some extra money.

Long story short, I ended up getting him an iPhone XR. I knew he'd be thrilled, but I felt sick about spending so much money ($850). After all was said and done yesterday, between buying a different fan, a kitchen sink, getting Noah's computer, and Jerry's new phone, we were out $1500! That took up almost ALL of the money we were saving for the flooring in the house. So, now we are going to have to wait to do the flooring until after we save up the money--probably not until January, now.

(Needless to say, Jerry was THRILLED to get the new phone.)

So, the secret project I mentioned before that we are going to attempt to DIY is going to be happening this week, and I'm super nervous about it. But if we can pull it off, I will be SO excited!

We are making our own laminate countertops.

I looked at other options, but once I realized that it's really not that expensive to make your own laminate countertops, I thought it would be fun and rewarding to do it ourselves. We ordered the laminate sheets, which arrived yesterday. And we bought the 3/4 inch particle board (which will be two boards thick for each countertop).

Sawing skillz

I've researched this a TON and I feel like we can do it. Today, I cut the boards to the sizes we need for our countertops (we need five in total). We are making a BIG change to the kitchen island, too--we are doubling the length of it, but half of it will be just countertop with stool seating. I've had the vision in my head for a while, and I'm pretty sure we can do it!

By the way, it was 30 degrees and snowing, and our garage isn't heated... it was COLD out there!

This whole thing reminds me... Jerry had an awesome idea for an HGTV show. If we'd had a cameraman following all of the shit we've done on our house, it would make for very entertaining television! Especially when we were putting in the new interior doors. Jerry and I banter quite a bit and we belly laugh at our mistakes (when we don't get mad about who did it wrong). I'm sure the DIY countertops will be no different ;)  HGTV should have a show where they film people who are DIY'ing it, and have an expert watching behind the scenes and just dying.

So, the rest of this month will be working with what we have... we cannot possibly afford to spend any more money! I refuse to go back into debt after getting it all paid off in July, so even if it takes us a year to finish this house project, I will have patience.

Oh! And here's a funny story:

I got a different fan from Menards, and brought it home yesterday. I spent a couple of hours following the directions perfectly, and just hoping that the transmitter was good (you can't really test it until it's put together, unless you have the little gadget my brother has).

I checked every wire, every screw, every little stupid part. And I felt great to get it done! Then I flipped the breaker switch on, and said a silent prayer. And like Clark W. Griswold, I held the remote to the fan/light in my hand and I made a d-d-d-d-d-d-d drumroll in anticipation of turning on the light.

I squeezed my eyes shut. Sang out "JOY TO THE WORLD....." and pressed the button.


I pressed it again and again, and like Clark W. Griswold, I shook the remote and kicked the theoretical Santa with his reindeer and threw a tantrum. WHY WHY WHY?!

I went over it in my head. I knew I did everything right!

And then it occurred to me that I hadn't checked the batteries in the remote control. I opened it up and saw that I had to insert the battery. I did that, and closed up the remote. I went through the motions again, with the drumroll and squeezing my eyes shut.


The "poor me" wine turned into "celebratory" wine at that moment ;)

I took this pic to send to my brother, to show that I really do know what I'm doing, and when I mentioned the battery in the remote, he replied, "Ha! I was going to ask you about that with the last one, but I didn't want to sound insulting!"

Hahaha, I assure you, it was NOT the battery issue with the last one.

So, now we have a working light and ceiling fan in the living room that no longer has a popcorn ceiling! My life is just getting better and better ;)

November 16, 2018

Intermittent Fasting Trial, Day 16: Week 2 Results

Intermittent Fasting Trial

Yesterday was the start of my third week of intermittent fasting. The first week of doing it, I actually gained 0.4 pounds. I really like doing it, though, so I decided to try some adjustments until I find what works for me (and something I can maintain--I am not going to make changes that I am not willing to do for the rest of my life).

First, I switched to black coffee in the mornings. I had been adding a tablespoon of heavy cream (50 calories) to my coffee during the first week. I also tried to shorten my eating window. I say "tried" because I wasn't very successful at it.

The problem is that I break my fasting at 3-4 pm with a good-sized dinner. That is where the majority of my calories come from. Because that's a large meal, I'm not hungry again until 5-6 hours later. So then I'd eat a snack at around 9-10 pm.

I enjoy breaking the fast with my dinner, because my dinner is usually pretty healthy food, and I'd like to spend most of my calories on that. I'm afraid if I just have a snack at 3-4 pm, and eat dinner a couple of hours later, I might just snack like crazy for a few hours and then I won't even really want my dinner. Basically, I want to have a good appetite for my main meal of the day.

Anyway, that is why I haven't been doing so great with a shorter eating window. And as for the results of week two, I am down 0.4 pounds... back to my starting weight, hahaha. I still really enjoy this way of eating, so I'm going to make some more adjustments and see if it helps this week:

1) Have a strict start/stop time for an eating window, instead of eating at "3-ish" or "4-ish", and then again just before bed (6-8 hours). So, this week, I'm going to do an eating window of 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm.

2) Add in exercise. I had a great run a couple of weeks ago, and I was excited to go out again... but it's been SO COLD that I just haven't brought myself to do it. Over the past few years, I have really become sensitive to the cold--I used to love running in 30-degree weather!

However, I have a perfectly good treadmill in my living room that I haven't touched since I was training for the half-marathon in April. This morning, I queued up some TV shows to stream, and decided that I will run on the treadmill for one show per day (M-F). A very simple plan!

Also, I figured that since I'm going to be on the treadmill a lot, it would be a great time to work on heart rate training again. When I'm outside, it's hard to run slowly enough to keep my heart rate down--my mind wanders and then I realize I picked up the pace and my heart rate is too high. On the treadmill, I can just set the speed and then run until my heart rate hits the top of my target (ideally, I will keep it below 144 bpm). Then I drop the speed down a notch, and repeat.

Today, I dusted off the treadmill and tried it out. It felt really good! I forgot how "easy" running feels when I keep my heart rate low. I say easy, but I mean that in relative terms. It feels much better than when I push the pace, and that makes the run more enjoyable. I remember loving my heart rate runs in 2016!

I started watching a show on Hulu, and then it kept buffering or something--it was annoying! I actually stopped running twice to try to fix it, but then I gave up and picked a show on Amazon Prime to watch. It was only 23 minutes, so added to the time from the first show, I ran for 38:41 total--and it ended up being a perfect 5K distance.

Treadmill run

I don't think that the treadmill is calibrated correctly, and the numbers on my Garmin didn't make much sense, either. I didn't use the foot pod, so that could be why. As I slowed the treadmill down throughout the run, my pace on the Garmin got faster. So, I'm not going to pay attention to that--right now, I'll just focus on my heart rate and time spent running. I'll dig out the foot pod, though, and hopefully it'll be more accurate.

So, with those couple of changes, I hope to see some good results next week!

(Speaking of our cold weather, my brother posted this on Facebook last night, and I was dying. Luke is SO cute!!)

Viva Mexico

November 13, 2018

The amazing transformation that a little bold paint can do!

I don't have time to write a real post right now, but I just thought I'd share some of the things that I've been working on lately. It's been SO fun seeing what a drastic difference a little paint makes!

Again, I am terrible about taking "before" photos. I always forget to! So, this is all I have of the table and chairs. Two of the chairs aren't seen in this photo because I was likely standing on them to paint the ceiling ;) (And we all know why that's a stupid idea)

table and chairs "before" makeover

After two coats of oil-based primer...

table and chairs primed for paint

Have you ever tried painting furniture inside of the house when you have a dog and two cats? Well, don't. It's horrible! (It's way too cold to paint outside right now. We even have snow!) It doesn't matter what I do, I am constantly picking pet hair (namely, Joey's) out of the paint. And Joey has permanent paint patches on his tail from coming into contact with wet paint!

When I woke up a few days ago, I was determined to paint the table and chairs, but I had no idea what color I was going to do. I was thinking just white, but I'm not really a "paint everything white" kind of girl. So, I went with my very favorite color: orange.

table and chairs painted orange

I bought that table and chairs set for $10 at a garage sale YEARS ago. After Noah took a meat mallet to our large, gorgeous solid oak table, I decided to buy something cheap. And I liked this set! But it wasn't very nice looking. I am IN LOVE with the orange paint on it, though! The floors will be dark gray and the walls light gray, so I think this will look really good with it. It looks awesome next to my blue cabinets.

And we are in the process of replacing the interior doors, which is very exciting. I'll explain the doors situation in another post. But for now, here is my pantry door. Like usual, I didn't take a "before" photo, but you can see the door to the left of it (which is the utility room) and that's basically what it looked like (only it didn't have the air grille on it).

kitchen doors "before" makeover

And once again, I was just feeling that the room needed some orange in that spot! ;)

painted orange pantry door

I'm going to paint the other door orange as well--right now, I'm just trying to figure out what I'm going to do about the air return grille. I may do a DIY decorative cover for it, but that's MUCH more expensive than just painting the grille I have. I also have to cut a cat door into it, because that's where the litter box is.

We only bought door "slabs", which are basically doors without the hardware or any pilot holes or the frame. So, Jerry and I spent the weekend measuring and hanging doors and drilling holes for the doorknobs. I can't believe what a difference a $35 door slab makes!

I'm excited to post about our next big DIY adventure in this whole renovation, but I want to wait until after we actually do it. Otherwise, I'm afraid we'll get talked out of it! hahaha.

But things are coming along, albeit very slowly. Until this weekend, I'd done nearly everything myself. And now I'm at the point where I reeeeally want my house back, so I recruited Jerry's help. (He was more than happy to help before, but I genuinely enjoyed doing it myself.)

Anyway, I'll try and update about the intermittent fasting tomorrow. I'm still going strong... and I even switched to black coffee this week! ;)

November 08, 2018

Intermittent Fasting Trial, Week 1 Results

I feel like I've been doing this intermittent fasting for so much longer than just a week!

When I started, I wasn't 100% sure about my eating cutoff times. I figured I would aim for 18 hours fasting and 6 hours to eat, but I would be happy with 16/8 as well (which is a common time window).

On most days, I was able to hit 18 hours. I kept very busy so that I wouldn't really think about eating, and I would break my fast each day by having an early dinner (something from the crock pot). I think that having all of the crock pot meals ready to go in the mornings has helped a LOT with the intermittent fasting... otherwise, I could see myself being hungry and just wanting to order pizza or something. Knowing that dinner will be ready whenever I am has been so helpful!

I tried to aim for 4:00 pm. After dinner, I would graze as I felt like it through the evening. I was very curious to see if this would make me binge eat. Since I'm a binge eater, I was concerned that not eating all day would set me up for a binge later, but I have found the opposite to be true. I LOVE not thinking about food! My binge eating has always been about emotional eating, anyway, and not about hunger, so I think that influenced it as well.

Here are my fasting times for each day:

(The app for this is called "Zero", and it's awesome! You just tap when you're start fasting and tap when you stop. It keeps track of everything for you.)

Anyway, here are my thoughts after Week 1:

WEIGHT: For the disappointing news, I did not lose any weight. I was actually up by 0.4 pounds! Last week, I was at 162.4, and today was 162.8. Interestingly, I'm not really bothered by this. Crazy, right?! I'm going to change things up a touch this week, which I'll explain later.

I have to say, despite not losing any weight, I love everything about the intermittent fasting.

FOOD: I used to worry about and plan for breakfast and lunch--when making grocery lists, I had to figure out what I was going to eat for the week, and then I rarely wanted what I planned for. Sometimes I'd eat something crappy for breakfast, which would make me carry that through the rest of the day, eating junk all day long.

I used to constantly think about food--what I was going to eat, when I was going to eat it, etc. Since I started the intermittent fasting, I really don't even think about food until it's getting close to time to eat.

ENERGY: I used to feel a huge drop in energy in the afternoons. I would want to just sit and do nothing. Since I started the intermittent fasting, I have lots of energy! Until I eat, hahaha. After eating is actually when I feel the least amount of energy.

DIGESTION: I used to get bloated a lot, especially after overeating. Then I would feel like crap and not be able to do anything. Since I started intermittent fasting, I don't think I've felt bloated at all! I always feel light and energetic, which is awesome. I know my weight isn't down at all, but I really do FEEL better.

SLEEP: I've always had sleeping problems. I mean ALWAYS. And since my bipolar diagnosis, the sleeping issues have made a lot more sense (when hypomanic, I sleep 2-3 hours a night and feel totally fine all day long! Then when depressed, I sleep 8-9 hours and feel tired all day long).

Since I started intermittent fasting, I've had a weird combination of those. My mood is the most stable it's ever been (not due to the fasting; I felt this way for at least about 6 weeks now) so I'm not hypomanic or depressed. I'm very, very stable. Prior to the fasting, though, I was tossing and turning all night, feeling super frustrated that I couldn't sleep. (And then when I finally managed to fall asleep, I was awakened by burning pain in my arm.)

Since I started the fasting, I have been sleeping much better and best of all, waking up without an alarm. I actually feel really great on about 6 hours of sleep. When I do wake up during the night, it's because of my arm; but for the last few nights, that hasn't happened.

Now, I really would like to lose some weight doing this! So, I'm going to try making a couple of changes this week.

1) Drink black coffee in the mornings instead of adding heavy cream. I'm sure it's not the calories that are the problem, but by skipping the cream, I'll truly be fasting from evening until afternoon. This may or may not be a problem, so I'll just give it a try and see what happens.

2) I'm going to try to condense my eating window to four hours. That way, instead of grazing for 6-8 hours, I will likely have one good-sized meal and one good-sized snack. I'll get in my full day's worth of calories, but in a shorter time frame.

Those are the only changes I'll make this week, and I'll see how it goes. Other than the fact that I haven't lost any weight, though, I really like this intermittent fasting!

November 07, 2018

RECIPE: Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

We finally have some nice fall weather in Michigan, so I'm revisiting some of my favorite fall recipes. What could taste more fall-like than pumpkin, cranberries, and walnuts? I know I'm probably the only person on this planet who still eats carbs, but here is the recipe, just in case! ;)

Click here for a printer-friendly PDF of Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

1 (15 oz.) can of pumpkin
1-1/3 cups of sugar
1/3 cup of canola oil
1/3 cup of unsweetened applesauce
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup egg whites
2 whole eggs, beaten
3 cups of flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking powder
4 oz. walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup of dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease two loaf pans with oil or cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the pumpkin, sugar, oil, applesauce, vanilla, egg whites, and eggs and stir until smooth. Add the dry ingredients (except nuts and cranberries) and stir just until combined. Fold in the nuts and cranberries.

Divide the batter into two loaf pans. Bake at 350 F for about 1 hour, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Each pan makes about 12 slices. Happy fall!

November 06, 2018

Intermittent Fasting Trial, Day 6 -- EMG Test and Updated Cabinet Pictures

Today was another day that felt rather easy to get through without even thinking about food or feeling hungry until the late afternoon. I have to say, I really like this pattern of intermittent fasting. For those of you who asked, I am eating a full day's worth of calories in my eating window (I would guess roughly 1600-1800 calories, but I'm not counting or measuring). Intermittent fasting isn't about eating very little food; it's about eating your day's worth of food in a shorter time frame.

I finally had the EMG test done on my arm. I'm still having pain and numbness (the pain is at night, and the numbness is during the day) and the wrist splint the neurologist prescribed last month hasn't helped at all.

The drive to the neurology center is an hour, so that alone took up a chunk of the day. The test was done in two parts: the first was done by a technician, where some sort of recording device marks how my nerves respond to stimuli from electrodes. I have a TENS unit for my back, and I expected the test to feel similar to using the TENS unit (it turns out that I was right--that's exactly what it felt like).

The technician, Kim, was super friendly. She asked if she had tested me before, because I looked very familiar to her. We eventually discovered that she actually knows me from my blog! That's happened to me before, where someone has recognized me, but it still surprises me. Small world :)

Kim hooked me up to the machine and we chatted as she zapped me over and over again. From the first ten seconds or so of the test, she said she can see that I definitely have carpal tunnel syndrome. From what I understood, the first part (the test that she did) was to test how quickly the nerves were able to send electrical signals, while the second part (done by the doctor) was to evaluate muscle activity from the signals.

The neurologist came in to do the second part of the test. He placed a needle into several different muscles and had me relax and then flex each muscle (my deltoid, triceps, biceps, one or two somewhere in my forearm, and then two in the muscle at the base of my thumb).

The needle pokes felt like needle pokes, so no surprise there. The doctor confirmed what Kim said, that I have carpal tunnel syndrome. I don't think either one of them really believed me/understood me when I explained just how bad the pain is at night. I KNOW what a 10 is on the pain scale... I've felt it before. I broke my jaw completely through in five places. That was a 10. This pain in my arm? It makes the broken jaw a 9 out of 10, because this is worse.

But it's "just carpal tunnel" syndrome, and it's "only mild", so it doesn't require surgery. If this is mild, I can't even imagine what severe carpal tunnel syndrome feels like! So, I'm supposed to continue to wear the wrist splint (in the middle of the night, I usually wake up frantically tear at it to come off because my arm feels like it's on fire).

Needless to say, I feel frustrated. I wanted hope that it's going to get better, but instead I feel kind of patronized, like a little girl who has a boo-boo and is told that a simple kiss will make it all better.

But anyways, enough about that. When I got home, I put a second coat of paint on the pet feeding station, and I FINALLY put the finishing coat of paint on the last of the cupboard doors! I am so so so happy to be done with them. They have to cure for at least a few days before I hang them, but I'm just glad that I don't have to paint them anymore.

I will be thrilled when I can finally put away the paint for the entirety of the project! But I have to touch up a few spots on the walls, the ceiling, and I have to paint the island in the kitchen. I was hoping to get started on the flooring this month, but it's pretty expensive, and we'll have to wait another month to save for it. In the meantime, we're going to try to get everything else completely ready.

Since I don't have any photos for this post, here are "before" and "current" photos of the cabinets:

cabinets before painting

cabinets after painting

I wish I had photos of the "before" complete with the popcorn ceiling and crown molding. It's crazy how different it looks. I will take photos of the whole kitchen once I get all of our stuff put away. Our kitchen table is loaded with cans of paint!

But looking at the before/current photos, I can't help but feel pretty proud that I did that! With my own two mildly-carpal-tunneled hands, and bipolar mind, I managed to do something pretty awesome :)

November 05, 2018

Intermittent Fasting, Day 5 -- Our Golden Years

Today has been much better as far as the intermittent fasting goes!

I wasn't hungry at all today. I took the kids to school, and then had to pick up a couple of things while I was out. I needed another gallon of paint from Sherwin Williams (I am so tired of painting!!) because I ran out of the Aviary Blue while I was working on the cupboard doors yesterday. And then I stopped at two stores looking for regular old stainless steel bowls for Joey's food and water (I wanted new bowls to go with the new "feeding station" I am making).

Both stores had empty spots on the shelves for the size I needed--I can't imagine it's a popular item, but I finally just went to PetSmart. One reason I hate going to PetSmart is that they have adoptable cats in the store. I feel heartbroken when I see them in cages and I desperately want to take them all home, but I know I can't do that.

So, I go into PetSmart, and of course the food bowls are directly across from the cat cages. As I was trying to guesstimate the diameter of the bowls (I forgot my tape measure) there was a gray cat that was meowing at me and rubbing against the side of the cage. Like a moth to a flame, I went over and started scratching his head through the cage. (He's two years old and neutered. Sadly, he's also declawed--even more heartbreaking. I don't like to "preach" on my blog, I am SO SO SO against declawing cats that I am begging anyone reading this not to do it.) 

Anyway, an employee was walking by just then, and I asked if he happened to have access to a tape measure. While he went to look, I kept the kitty company. When he came back he measured the bowls for me. And then he opened the cage to clean out the litter box. (Goddamnit, it's like they KNEW I was coming!)

I asked if I could hold the kitty while he cleaned the box, so I had a few minutes to fall in love give the poor cat some attention. The employee told me that they do same-day adoptions, and I could take him home with me right then.

I was SO tempted, but Estelle and Phoebe would seriously kill me if I brought home a cat. I asked the cashier if the cats are generally adopted quickly, and she assured me that they definitely are. That made me feel a little better, but I wanted that cat! 😭

Anyway, when I got home, I actually put together a funny gift for Jerry. At one of the stores I went to, I saw a pair of men's pajama pants that had The Golden Girls on them--hahaha! So, I put them in a gift bag and then I wrote a sappy love poem about our "golden years" together. Jerry likes the mushy stuff, and I don't; so I knew he'd like the poem, but then he'd laugh when he saw the pajama pants.

Mens' Golden Girls pajama pants

He reacted just as I thought, but it wasn't until a few hours later when I mentioned writing the poem that he said, "Wait--you wrote that?! I thought you found it online!" 😂

Sigh. I referenced holding hands on a bench because of one of our first dates... we were at a park and we saw an elderly couple holding hands and then sitting down on a bench. They looked so content and happy, and Jerry said something like, "I wonder if that will be us someday".

Golden Years poem

We've referenced it several times over the years, but apparently, it went right over his head. Still, he thought the gift was fun.

The poem took a couple of hours to write, so when I was done with it, I went right to painting and didn't stop until dinner at 5:00. I made a recipe for Hawaiian Pork Chops in the crock pot and I really didn't care for it.

It's crazy how fast the day went by! I painted the pet feeding station that I made yesterday, and I LOVE the colors! I used the Aviary Blue on the outside, and then orange on the inside. I'll probably put contact paper on the back wall of the inside once it's dry. But I think the orange is very fun, and that's what I plan to use as an accent color throughout the main parts of the house.

pet feeding station

Second coat tomorrow, and then it has to cure for 7-10 days.

Story of my life!

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