Saturday, December 7, 2013

Small, Stylish and Low-Maintenance: Lustron Homes

The idea of well-designed, small homes taking less time to maintain while being just as pleasant to live in is not a new one. Lately I've been fascinated by one such example from years past: Lustron houses. These prefabricated enameled steel houses were developed in the post-World War II era. Marketed as "the house America has been waiting for" the small, yet well-designed homes were promoted as affordable, low-maintenance solutions for modern families.

The Lustron Company, headquartered in my town, Columbus, OH, manufactured just under 2,500 two- and three-bedroom homes between 1948-1950, before declaring bankruptcy. This was much less than expected, with production delays, the lack of a viable distribution strategy, and the escalating prices for the finished product all contributing to the company's demise.

Four Lustron homes remain in my neighborhood, and this summer I was able to fully explore the one pictured here, which is on display at the Ohio Historical Society until 2018.

master bedroom vanity
The exhibit was fantastic, and one I highly recommend if you're in Columbus. Not only is it amazing to have a entire house inside a museum, but the decor is completely period and they encourage you to explore, open drawers, etc. Or you can take a video tour.

Although compact and built to be shipped in pieces and assembled on-site, the rooms were a good size (bigger than my house anyway) and surprisingly full of storage. There was a built in bookshelf/display area in the living room, tons of closets, a built-in vanity in the master bedroom, and great bathroom storage. Plus, since they're constructed from metal, hanging a picture is as simple as throwing up some magnets.

The Lustron house exhibit was also appointed with something I've never heard of before, a Thor Automagic hybrid washer/dishwasher. Now there's something that makes me go hmmm, and I guess it made a lot of other people do the same since it never really caught on.

If you're curious about how Lustron homes appear with current decor, check out this Columbus-area Lustron.

As cute and cool as they are, I'm not sure I would want to live in a Lustron, especially as their advanced age takes away the low-maintenance aspect in many cases. Could you live in a Lustron, or is there another small home from an era gone by you lust after?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A year's worth of clothes

A few of my go-to looks - NOT! Photo: Hegemony777

According to Elizabeth Cline's book, Overdressed, the average US shopper spends $1,100 per year on clothing and purchases 68 items plus 8 pairs of shoes.

Sixty-eight items per year seems rather shocking, but since reading that I've wondered, do I buy more or less clothing than the average American? Yet I hadn't gotten around to listing my purchases until being inspired by a recent post on Exacting Life.

Before I started counting, I thought that I couldn't possibly have purchased more than 10 items of clothing this year. I have a large existing wardrobe, but there is much room for improvement as it includes items of various sizes and clothing I don't love wearing.

I've never loved buying clothes and shoes like the stereotypical woman, but this has been particularly light year even for me. This is mainly because I'm at a higher weight than I'd like and I haven't wanted to admit defeat and invest in a larger wardrobe for this size me. But, a girl's gotta have something to wear so in the end I've bought some new items.

Items purchased in 2013:

  • Two pairs of dress pants for work: $55
  • Black knit blazer for work (the only blazer I've ever liked wearing - it's SO comfortable): $36
  • black and white summer sweater: $28
  • Two black t-shirts: $14
  • Black and white shell blouse: $21
  • Black summer sweater: $22
  • Black knit top: $15
  • Black shirt with beaded sleeves: $16
  • Black NYC shirt: $9
  • Blue sweater: $21
  • Jeans: $27
  • Peach sweater from thrift store: $4
  • White capris (thrift-store): $4
  • Black comfty flats for work: $64
  • Black sandals: $54
Total spent: $390
Total items: 17

Accessories purchased:
  • Black purse (thrift-store): $5
  • Red purse: $30
  • Scarf: $22
Total spent: $57
Total items: 3

Besides the fact that I'm heavily in a black and white clothing phase (they're slimming colors you know), this has been a pretty good year in that out of these purchases, I really only regret and don't wear the peach thrift store sweater.

I don't set a clothing budget, as I'm pretty good at reigning in my spending month to month. I'm completely fine with spending $447 on clothing and accessories for the year, in fact, I'd be okay with twice that provided I bought items I love and feel great wearing. 

How does your clothing spending compare to the average?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Myths of the American Dream: Part I

One idea that is continually spoken as fact is that home ownership is always a sound investment. Renters are perceived as throwing their money away, while home owners are building equity!

Home ownership is the expected thing, the thing many aspire too. It's what you're supposed to do.

Often, I'm not sure if home ownership is all it's cracked up to be. Never was, but I bought this little house anyway. I wouldn't say I regret it, exactly, but I think you really have to make sure you know what you're getting into before you buy. Heck, before you go to an open house and fall in love with a property even.

About that throwing away money on rent...let's just look at the numbers shall we?

First, if I take the full 30 years to pay off my mortgage, I'll end up paying more than double the purchase price, and that's WITH a heavy 20% down payment. It would take more than two years of my entire current salary to pay the interest alone.

My mortgage may equal what I paid in rent before I bought this house (which is only because I bought a tiny house), but consider that I'm paying double that with interest and then add an extra 40% for property taxes.

I haven't even gotten to maintenance yet. If you own a home then eventually something is going to break or need replaced. And sooner or later than something is going to be expensive.

The day I signed the purchase papers and got the keys to my house I came over and found a leaking faucet, a roof leak in the kitchen  and a leak in the furnace room. none of these things were there a few days prior. Luckily, with some help from my stepdad, none of them were very expensive, but still you get my point. In the seven years I've owned min hus I've paid for chimney repairs (twice), replaced the AC/furnace, repaired the roof, replaced the hot water heater, bought two dehumidifiers for the basement, and spent hundreds of dollars on paint, painting supplies, tools, sandpaper, and miscellaneous repair expenses. If I hadn't had lots of kind help in making those repairs (thanks boyfriend!!, stepdad!) it would have cost three times as much. And I'm sure there are others I'm forgetting.

Have I mentioned the lawn and garden equipment I never had to own as a renter? Or all the projects that still
need to be done?

Call me a pessimist, but with the drop in home values I don't see how I'm going to get all that back if I sell anytime soon....and probably not when I sell it no matter how long away that may be.

Why is paying rent "throwing money away," but paying interest, taxes and maintenance aren't?

Don't get me wrong, if you want to own your home for other reasons then great. If you want something to call your own, decorate as you like it, by all means. Maybe you enjoy DIY and maintenance, and in that case, boy will you love owning a home! Buy an old one for extra fun. Just don't buy a home because you think it's an investment or something adults do.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Dishing the Dirt on Cleaning

Chiot's Run on flickr

I've been thinking a lot about average cleaning habits, although it's harder to find stats on Americans cleaning habits than I would have guessed, at least on the net. I found one stat (albeit from a robotic vacuum seller) that says 45% of women vacuum every 2-4 days.

Most of the time, I don't mind cleaning, but what I really love is having a clean home. I like my home so much more when it's clean and tidy, in fact when I'm feeling down on the place giving it a good clean is the first step to improving my mood. It's a lot easier for me to relax and enjoy when the house it clean. Some people, including the boyfriend, would call me a neatfreak, but I'm pretty sure Martha Stewart and her ilk would not find my home up to snuff.

I have a lower tolerance for clutter I can see (behind closed doors or squirreled away where I can't see it is another story) than dirt, although I don't like either. I give the place a general once-over every week, but beyond that I'm much more likely to declutter than deep-clean. I ALWAYS clean before company comes over no matter how recently I last cleaned.

I wasn't always this way. I remember being constantly nagged to clean my room when I was little. Sometime during my late teen years things began to change and I began cleaning more than my mother, at least at certain jobs. 

While my home looks pretty clean, especially on the weekends, if you look closer you'll see that I'm less stringent about moving and cleaning under big furniture, waxing the floors (and heck, mopping them), scrubbing walls and the shower, and washing curtains.

When I was an au pair in Scandinavia I found out what a heavy cleaning schedule was like. Maybe it's because they had hired help to do it, but I had to vacuum and dust the entire house 3x per week; mop all the floors, wash doors, moldings and door handles once per week; wipe down all cabinet and pantry shelves, and completely clean out the fridge once per month.

I'm curious: what's your cleaning routine and who takes care of what chores in your household? I'll tell you mine if you tell me yours... 

-I sweep, dust and clean the bathroom (but, um, not always the shower) once per week
-mopping is done twice a month or so, the kitchen floor more so
-sheets and towels are washed weekly, sheets sometimes stretch to two weeks
-litter-boxes are cleaned daily, mostly by the boyfriend
-dishes are done as-needed in the dishwasher, but some pots and things are hand-washed only
-walls and baseboards are washed 1-2 times per year, more in the bathroom
-curtains are washed when they get really bad. Usually 2-3 times per year
-a little tidying is done every day, but the main cleaning, like vacuuming and dusting is done on the weekends.
-I use mostly greener cleaners: microfiber cloths for dusting (no spray), vinegar and baking soda for cleaning, bleach cleaner once every month or two on the shower.
-most hated cleaning chore: scrubbing the shower. It needs renovating and never looks clean no matter how much you scrub.

As mentioned before, I live in a pretty small house, so if I'm motivated and the stuff is fairly picked up, I can do a routine clean in 90 minutes or so. If I add in mopping, laundry, cleaning up the cats areas, taking out trash, and just generally poke around, as I usually do, it expands to two to three hours on Saturday morning, or afternoon.

Is this routine adequate? In general, yes, although with three cats and two shedding adults, this place can get hairy and the floors messy. I think a second vacuum mid-week would make a big difference in cleanliness levels and my happiness, so I'm going to try that out and see how it goes. I wish the clutter and STUFF didn't pile up as it tends to at times, but that's life I guess.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Clothing Inventory

this closet and dresser make up the majority of the bedroom clothing storage

Last night, after browsing clothing inventories on several blogs, including An Exacting Life and Live to List, I immediately wanted to get up and start counting my clothes. I managed to wait until this morning to get started.

It turns out that I have 256 major items of clothing, including tops, bottoms, coats and shoes. This total doesn't include accessories, under clothes, or pajamas. I think I'd be fine with that total if I liked and wore everything, or even most of these things, but that number includes at least 60 (gulp) items in various sizes that I can't currently wear and yet am not ready to admit total defeat in ever wearing again (obviously mostly smaller clothes).

Clothing Inventory

Tops - 154
t-shirts: 42
long sleeve t-shirts: 19
works shirts & blouses: 30
tanks: 5
sweatshirts: 6
sweaters: 44
blazers: 6
work polos: 2

Bottoms - 73
jeans: 9
shorts: 19
dress pants: 32
exercise clothes: 8
skirts: 5

Misc. - 29
Coats: 5
Swimsuits: 3

shoes: 21

Total: 256

All of these clothes and too often I still feel like I have nothing to wear!

my side of the overflow closet is rather stuffed at the moment

More than half of the items are stored in the tiny 1940s closet and two dressers that are in the bedroom. A little less than half--mainly out-of-season items and ones that don't fit--are stored in our largest closet, which is inconveniently located in the basement. Some extras are stored in two dressers in the attic. These are several suits I have, which were fairly expensive when I bought them long ago, that I will never wear again. I keep thinking I should sell them online and get something out of them rather than donating them, but I'm really not sure it's worth the hassle.

Out of these 256 items of clothing, six were purchased from thrift stores. And while that total is low, it's definitely the most items I've ever had from a thrift store. I find it challenging enough to find clothes I like at new clothing stores where there is a greater selection of styles and sizes, at thrift stores it's almost impossible for me.

While doing this inventory I found four items of clothing I am going to donate, plus one for the rag pile, so I'm downsizing already!

Where do I go from here? 
I think my goal will be to keep my total under 250 items of clothing for now, so for anything new I buy something must go. I'm fine with having clothes that fit the storage space I have, but I want to work on only keeping items that make me feel good to wear, plus some size cushions since I fluctuate a fair bit.

Have you ever done an inventory of your clothing? How much is too much for you?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Tablets: Clutter or Cure-All?

image via flickr user Gadgetmac

I was skeptical about tablets long after they became mainstream. What could a tablet possibly offer that my laptop didn't already?

But last winter, as Christmas approached and with no other possible gifts I needed or wanted, I caved in to some gadget envy as everyone and even my own mother seemed to be buying a tablet. So I asked for and Santa delivered an ipad mini. And I found the answer to what tablets offer over laptops: the ultimate in portability.

I admit it: I love this thing. I don't think a day has gone by since last Christmas that I haven't used it for something, from taking a picture, to reading an e-book, to surfing the web. I rarely pull out my laptop anymore, unless I need to type large amounts of text or use a site that isn't mobile friendly.

Tablets are perfect for traveling. I recently returned from a quick trip out of state and packing the ipad is so much easier. It fills the role of books, a laptop (for low-key things like web surfing and checking email), a game device, a video device, and a camera (not an ideal one for distance or high-quality shots, but for being able to snap a photo in a pinch it's fine) all in one compact little package.

But the question still remains, is a tablet clutter or a cure-all? Is it a distraction or a productivity booster?

Since my ipad is something I use often, and even find beautiful, I wouldn't classify it as clutter. But for me it's all about entertainment. And sometimes it's just another time waster (Candy Crush, anyone?)

It's also an addition to my gadget collection. It doesn't replace my laptop, which I'm typing on right now and still need for blogging, photo editing, updating documents and typing anything of length (sure I could get an add-on keyboard for the ipad, but I think that too would be uncomfortable). It doesn't replace my camera, even though I use it far more often. It does replace the need to buy an ebook reader, as the Kindle app works just fine for that purpose.

Even at work, where were given a full-size ipad to use for business, I don't find it overly useful. It's great for checking email, taking simple notes and using the web on the go> But even when you spring for paid apps I still find it cumbersome to update Word or Excel files with it, not to mention working on something more complex. Maybe given time that will change.

Fellow tablet owners, do you find them useful or just fun?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Life Lately

The weather was perfect for our mid-week farmer's market, and I picked up some tasty 
heirloom tomatoes, among other things. Oh, and roasted eggplant with garlic is now my favorite.

 Seeing this neon pink zinnia glowing in the garden makes me smile

It was raining during Saturday's farmer's market, but I saw a picture of 
these heirloom cucumbers and for sale and I had to have them.

 I love the way this recycled planter turned out this year. It's bursting with
zinnias, Veronica Speedwell, nasturiums and mallow.

Today we installed the first four refinished cabinet doors. Cabinets with doors!! So exciting.

And Mikko is still doing amazingly well despite a serious heart condition, thanks to his medications (knock on wood, cause I'm superstitious). He doesn't love taking them, and I don't love making him do so, but we manage.

Plus the weather has been lovely. I've had the AC off for two whole days, 
quite amazing for late July in these parts.

How are things for you?

Monday, July 8, 2013

Do You Declutter to De-stress?

Thanks to the fourth of July holiday, I had a lovely four-day weekend with plenty of time to squeeze in some DIY project work. But alas, it's been raining for two straight weeks, so while people out west might kill for a little rain, it put a damper on doing the one project around here that really needs to be done, namely, the cabinet painting project (no mom, it's still not done yet).

But what the rain taketh, the rain also giveth back in the form of time to work on a project that sounds a little bit fun and an excuse to avoid something I should do, but don't wanna (hello cabinets!). I decided this weekend was a perfect time to engage in a little therapeutic decluttering.

I know I'm not the only one who derives a sick sense of satisfaction from decluttering and organizing, especially when I'm super stressed. So after watching an episode or two of Consumed online for inspiration (which my fellow Americans can enjoy via YouTube despite HGTV Canada's non-sharing), I decided to tackle my closet. Again. I don't even buy that many clothes, certainly not in comparison to the average Western woman, and yet my closet continues to attract clutter. Actually, it was kind of fun to have stuff to purge again, since I haven't been in the mood to declutter much lately.

after: sweet, sweet empty space
After the closet I moved on to my makeup drawer, another major clutter area and turned it back into a manageable storage spot.

In the end I filled another sack, plus a duvet, for the charity shop, which I packed up and dropped off on Sunday.

And it still feels so good.

Now I just need to figure out how to keep these spaces uncluttered.

gratuitous Mikko shot with reflection!

What have you decluttered lately?

Friday, July 5, 2013

On Pacing Myself

my little buddy, Mikko

I'm sitting on my couch having a beer at 4:00 pm on a Friday to try and chill out after taking the cat to the vet.

This summer has not turned out as I expected, to put it mildly. After spending more time than I wanted to working 1.25 jobs last summer, I vowed this summer would be different. I would garden more, have more fun and work less.

Oh, foolish human and her little plans.

As it turns out, I'm working more than ever before. I haven't planted a single vegetable and my kitty got sick.

Yet we're surviving, and even under less than ideal circumstances, we are grabbing every moment of possible happiness.

It started when I got a new job...same company, same job function, but in a new department with a lot more responsibilities. It's a great opportunity with more interesting projects, but I've never been so challenged or worked so hard in my life.

Then the week before I started my new job, my littlest and youngest kitty (at 14 he's hardly young but...) was having problems breathing. I took him to the vet who found that he was in congestive heart failure. The vet gave me two choices: take him to the emergency vet immediately, or put him to sleep.

We took him to the emergency vet and long story short, he has advanced heart disease. But way too many vet bills later, he's doing pretty well on a regime of six pills a day. In fact, if you didn't know he was sick I don't think you'd guess it.  He's still the most active cat in our household, and eats, plays and patrols the windows as much as ever. Now I know that this could change any day though, so I'm doing my best to enjoy him while I can.

With all the stress I've been under this summer, my natural inclination is to freak out, feel sorry for myself, and retreat into sadness. And though I've had those moments, there have also been some really good moments that break through the despair:

  • When my boyfriend dropped everything when I called him from the vet, told his coworkers he had to go, and drove straight to the vet when he heard about Mikko, my heart melted a little. It melted more when Mikko insisted on resting his paw on my boyfriend's palm while we sat, waiting for test results, almost like he wanted to hold the boyfriend's hand.
  • The emergency vets who treated my cat and I so kindly and saved him from heart failure.
  • Knowing that I have an emergency fund and don't have to make tough choices like affording the vet or paying bills
  • Hearing from a long, lost friend
  • The fact that my cat still follows me around and hangs out with me, despite me forcing him to take pills three times a day, taking him to the vet where he is poked and prodded and generally fussing over him nonstop.
The kitchen reno may not be going as quickly as I'd like, I may not have tomatoes growing out back and my house may be messier than usual this summer, but in the end, none of that really matters, now does it?

What are you grateful for?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


These foxgloves remind me that 
patience and perseverance pay off,
in the garden and in life.

Seven years ago,
after my mom pulled all the weeds, 
this bed was empty.
Except for an old climbing rose, 
that you can't see hiding behind the Miss Kim lilac.
I bought six plants, all flowers, 
that year from the farmer's market. 
Four of them are still alive.
Finally, this bed is looking full.

  Five years ago I discovered winter sowing.
I planted fox gloves that first year, 
and the year after that.
But they never sprouted.
The poppies always grow though, 
and the oriental poppies come back every year.

Last year I tried again with fresh fox glove seeds.
Something changed. They sprouted.
But fox gloves require extra patience, 
the biennials don't bloom until year two.

But now, look at them now.
So many more blooms to enjoy.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Stuff Check: Shoes

I am not a shoe woman. Never have been. Shoe shopping has always been more torture than treat. It can't be helped really, with clod-hoppers like mine. Shoes that look completely cute in a size six or eight, looks absolutely hideous when blown up to size-11 proportions.

So imagine my surprise when I finally photographed my shoe collection, as the Center for the New American Dream's blog invited readers to do, and found out that I'm really downright average on the shoe ownership scale. In fact, I own more than the average 19 pairs per American (broken down by gender its 27 pairs for women and 12 for men) since I own three more pair than the 19 pictured above for a total of 22 pairs. 22!

Then I went and counted all the boyfriend's shoes and he only has 20 pairs. I complain about how many pairs he has (many of which he never wears), and it turns out that he has less than me. Ouch. I guess appearances are deceiving since more of my shoes are hidden away and his are out in the open.

Maybe owning 22 pairs of shoes would be okay if I loved and wore them all, but of course I don't. Out of the 22 pairs I own,  I regularly wear five. There are 7 pairs I have worn less than five times. And out of those seven, there are four pairs I've never worn. Ugh. Apparently not being a shoe person does not exempt me from making impulse shoe buys. Plus there are three pairs that should really be pitched, but for some inexplicable reason I keep hanging on to them.

It's time to cull my collection. I've already put two pairs in the donation pile and I'm giving myself six months to either wear or get rid of any unworn shoes in my closet. I'm going to shoot for 18 pairs or less by November.

How many pairs of shoes do you own? And is that number too many, too few or just right?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Why the Open Shelving Trend Is Not for Me

I'm ecstatic that its spring and warmer weather is on the horizon. Not just because this means we can stop being cooped up in the house and enjoy being in the garden, letting in the fresh air, etc. What I'm really happy about is that its almost outdoor painting weather. Which means I can stop looking at the scene above every day.

Every single thing in the kitchen cabinets has been on full display for the past six months (almost seven actually) since our outdoor cabinet spray-painting project was interrupted by, of all the nerve, winter. That's since last the end of September. Last September! As I'm more of a "hide all the stuff where I never have to look at it" kind of neat freak, this has been rather disturbing.

All-in-all I've handled it pretty well I think. I haven't murdered anyone, or had any major breakdowns (at least not since I spent a week painting the cabinet boxes). We even had some guests stay for the weekend. But as we get closer and closer to outdoor painting weather I've been itching to see my dishes and food stuffs hidden behind freshly painted white doors. And kitchen drawers! Remember self, when we had kitchen drawers to store stuff in? Oh, the luxury!

In a way, I guess I could take this experience as a great exercise in learning what we really need for day-to-day living. There is a rather large blue IKEA tarp bag hidden in the basement full of kitchen stuff from the drawers and cabinets that we've lived without quite easily for the past six months. I went from one drawer of cutlery and a second for utensils to a single drawer of both, and yet we were still able to cook. As I think about it, I'm not even sure what all is in that bag besides extra dish towels and the remains of the junk drawer.

Another thing the "great open cabinet winter of 2013" has confirmed is something I've long suspected. The trend of open shelving and open cabinetry is absolutely, positively, not for me! When the boyfriend's mother came to stay, she kindly remarked that she liked the open cabinets so much she thought I should leave them that way. While I'm glad that not everyone thinks the current state of my kitchen is as hideous as I do, there's no way I would choose this look on purpose.

Please don't misunderstand, I've seen pictures of some absolutely gorgeous kitchens that feature open shelving  and open cabinetry. What I question is the practicality of this trend. Perhaps if one lives without pets, hair, and has only beautiful dishes and kitchen items, then it's a lot less hassle. But for us, with three cats, one boyfriend, and my long hair, it's a disaster. I've been vacuuming the shelves because there is some hair, and a lot of dust everywhere. Do people dust their shelves and cabinets every week? Because more cleaning and maintenance is not my idea of fun.

I've also had two open shelves ever since I've lived in this house. I use them to store my decorative-only collection of vintage Pyrex. And they are purely decorative in part because you would need to to scrub them before every use due to the dust and sometimes bits of grease that find them. They look nice from far away, but I always hope visitors don't get too close and wonder if all my dishes are so sketchy. (They're not, pinky swear).

Readers, I'm curious, what do you think of this trend? And if you have open shelving in your home, how has the maintenance issue been? Do we just live in a freakishly dusty and furry house?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Weighting Game

Making resolutions is a rare thing for me, and it's even more rare for me to do so around the new year. Thinking about what I want to accomplish for the next year is something I naturally do around my birthday instead. But there is something about the new year that makes is a good time to make a fresh start on being healthier, and so that's my big goal for 2013. Again. Getting healthier and finally finishing the freaking kitchen renovation, which has become rather embarrassing anytime anyone asks about it. The answer to that one is no, it's still not done, and yes, my kitchen cabinet doors are still sitting in the garage waiting for more spray-paint-friendly weather. To say I can't wait for spring is an understatement.

By setting only two big goals, I hope that it's easier to successfully accomplish both. But making a change to my usual routine and habits is never easy for me.

Now when I say I want to get healthier, what I really mean is, I want to lose some friggin' weight. And lots of it. Unfortunately this isn't my first rodeo. I've been unhappy with my weight for, oh, decades. When I was much younger, I wasn't actually overweight (looking back now I realize that at times I was darned skinny). Since college, however I've struggled to stay within my healthy weight range and have floated just above or under it. 

The Problem
Why I'm currently overweight is no secret of course. I like to eat. A lot. Unfortunately, I also like to eat crap. A lot. I don't love to exercise and I hate, hate going to the gym. But for several months of the year that's of the best options I have to get a decent workout. I will never be one of those people who enjoys working out (bike rides in the great outdoors, yes, everything else, hell no). The feeling I get after a workout is superb. But before and during? It's always a struggle. 

The Fix
How to lose the weight isn't a secret either. We all know the facts, eat less (and better), move more, repeat for the rest of your life. Doing that all the time, every single day, can be downright tricky however. 

The first time I really, seriously stuck to a healthy diet and exercise routine was 2009. Starting January 1 that year I used the free tracking tools at, ate better, exercised 3-6 times per week (burning around 2000 calories) and lost 35 pounds. I was so proud of myself. I kept it off until 2011 and then begin the much quicker slide back up. I gained that 35 pounds right back plus another 18 for bad behavior. A new medication may have contributed to that, but once again I had gone back into my old routine of eating lots of crap and never exercising.

So now I'm trying again, hopefully for good this time. I started on January 9 and am down 7 pounds as of today. Overall that's not bad, but it feels slower this time. And harder. I know I can do it, but I also know it's going to take a long time and that I can never stop trying.

One of the many annoying things about trying to lose weight is that I find myself more obsessed about food than ever. I'm constantly thinking about what I can or can't eat. Or trying to fight off a craving. Or adding up how many calories I have left. Or thinking about the next meal and whether I have a few extra calories to indulge a little, or not. It's exhausting. But it is getting easier.

One meal at a time, one day at a time. It's the key to everything, right?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

On Worrying

I wish I could declutter worrying.

If worrying was an event in the Olympics, I'm pretty sure I would medal, if not take the gold. I've always been a worrier, at least as far back as I can recall. I worry about issues under my control and those that are not. I worry about issues big and small. I remember being completely worried about the environment in high school. Or worrying that I might die in my sleep before going to bed when I was younger than 10.

Sometimes the worries are manageable, and somewhat rational and I can shake them off, or distract myself from them, or at least cope with them. Other times they are all-consuming, like the last three days when my favorite (shh! don't tell the others!) cat Alex appeared to be having an issue with his teeth and I made a vet appointment for him for this morning.

See, Alex is 15, with kidney disease and diabetes, oh, and bad teeth. Trips to the vet with him for the past four or five years have usually meant bad news and a big vet bill. Plus, being a cat, he gets pretty stressed out, which in turn stresses me out. Basically, it's not a fun time and I dread it each time we must go.

This time I was already worried about the possibility of him having a tooth issue and needing a dental (which for cats means going under general anesthesia – something that isn't great for kidney disease or older cats), and then the receptionist said he needed a rabies shot before they would see him. That completely threw me into another level of tizzy, because it was yet another thing that could put his overtaxed system over the edge.

Though I knew it was irrational, I became convinced that this vet appointment pretty much spelled doom for my cat. The worry went into overdrive. I took a million videos and photos of him. I went to the pet store and bought his favorite, and more expensive, food and a new catnip mouse on Thursday and let him indulge all by himself as much as he wanted. I cried myself to sleep that night and almost called off work on Friday to spend more time with him.

Today, v-day, when I woke up I was so nervous that I felt physically sick. I can't tell you who was more nervous on the drive to the vet's office – me or the cat. Luckily, the visit went about as well as possible. First, they didn't even mention a rabies shot, and while his teeth aren't great and have a lot of plaque, the vet didn't see any signs of an acute issue that would require a dental. She is great and doesn't want to put him under unless she absolutely has to any more than I do. We got some antibiotics and he had some blood drawn, and came home 30 minutes later.

I know these kinds of worries are irrational. I completely understand that while it's happening, but that doesn't seem to help me not do it.

Some of my worry-coping strategies are:

  1. Distraction – I try to distract myself  with movies, books, surfing the net, even work, anything that will take my mind off the issue for awhile. Tackling a video-editing project at work on Friday definitely kept my mind fully-occupied on Friday.
  2. Exercise – A nice, exhausting exercise session really helps. Although I admit, I didn't do this this week, because I wanted to spend my extra time with Alex, rather than at the gym.
  3. Writing – Writing about my worries in my journal (which is really a file on my computer because I prefer it these days to the clutter of a physical journal) really helps me express my feelings without boring others with them and surprisingly makes me feel better.

But at times when I'm at a level-ten on the worry Richter scale, these strategies don't quite cut it.

Am I the only one who gets like this? Are you a worrier, and if so what do you do to cope?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

How to Fall in Love with Your Home Again

I've had some extensive time off during the holidays and one of the things I've been doing too much of is watching TV, namely HGTV. It doesn't take many episode of House Hunters and the like before I want to smack someone upside the head and show them that their current home, or the smaller home they dismissed out of hand, could be perfectly fine with just a few small adjustments.

I shouldn't be so hard on those poor House Hunters participants; falling out of love with your home happens to most of us at one time or another. Remember when you first saw your current home? When you first fell in love with, or were at least perfectly satisfied, with your home? Remember when it was new (to you at least), exciting and full of possibilities? But eventually that newness wears off and we begin to take our homes for granted. Maybe they put on a few pounds, perhaps they haven't kept themselves up like they used to, perhaps old age is taking its toll. Eventually homes can begin to seem a bit sad, cluttered and neglected and the siren song of moving up to a bigger, newer, shinier, better home might begin to appeal to you. But before you start packing, you might want to try a few easy tips to fall in love with your home again.

  1. Clean up - Sounds too simple to work? Perhaps, but a clean, tidy home is much easier to love. Whenever I'm feeling especially down on my house I give it a good scrubbing and inevitably it always looks vastly improved afterwards.

  2. Declutter - You've heard it before and you'll hear it again, because it's true. Decluttered spaces feel and look larger. So put your house on a diet and get rid of some of the crap you no longer use or love, and see what a difference it can make in your home. Visit the clutter busters category of this blog for more decluttering inspiration.

    this corner cabinet is one of my favorite areas to rearrange
  3. Rearrange - I'm not a serial rearranger, but I am always impressed with how happy rearranging things in my home can make me feel about the space. First we get used to our surroundings and then we get bored with them. By simply rearranging some of your trinkets and decor, you can make your space feel fresh and new again. You can go hard-core and rearrange the furniture (if you have the space), but even changing out pictures or changing a shelf arrangement can make a big impact.

  4. Fix it! - Most homes having something that needs fixing. Whether it's a nail hole that needs patching (ahem, like in my living room), a messy space that needs an intervention (hello, basement!), fixing something that has been bugging you not only gets a nagging item off the to-do list, it can make you feel better about your home as well.

  5. Add a little something - If you've completed the first three tips and your home still doesn't make you smile buying one or more new, strategic pieces can make a big difference. Whether it's new pillows that really pop for your couch, or a new throw for your bed, the right small touch can make a big difference. You don't have to spend a lot of money to achieve a new look either, shop a sale, use a coupon, buy used (via thrift stores, garage sales, Craigslist, etc.) or make something.

  6. Paint - I am continually amazed at what a big difference a new coat of paint can make (example 1, ex. 2, ex.3, ex. 4, ex. 5). Compared to most remodeling jobs, painting a piece of furniture, room, trim, etc. can make a big difference in how you feel about your home. Paint can also help you live with something that is less than ideal while you save up for what you really want (I'm looking a you, fake tile walls).
What tips and tricks help make you fall back in love with your home?


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