Making some changes

A few weeks ago I stepped on the scale and saw a number I’ve never seen before and never hoped to see. I tried not to be too hard on myself about it. The last few months have been full of upheaval — finding a house, buying a house, renovating a house, moving a new member into the house and then going straight from that into my busiest time of year. It’s been a lot and I’ve been eating my stress.

So I thought I’d see if running didn’t help me get back on track. It’s always been so helpful at bringing up my energy and metabolism, which in turn makes me feel better and eat better. I started the Couch to 5k app and it felt good. I eventually got up to running about 2 miles. But after 6 weeks I hadn’t lost a single pound. In fact I think I gained 1 or 2. That was a humbling moment.

I’m the kind of person who lives inside my head a lot of the time, so this made me really think a lot about all the times I’ve been in this position and all the things I’ve tried that didn’t work in the long term. There was obviously some connection I wasn’t making. Of all the things I’ve learned about food and nutrition, none of them have helped me find one healthy weight and stick to it. So what I was looking for then and what I’m working on now, is a way to eat for the rest of my life. Because running is not going to save me from overeating, and diets aren’t going to help me deal with being an emotional eater. That has to come from inside. 

So I kind of made the quiet decision to work on that. To ask myself what is the worst thing that could happen if I didn’t eat this or that unhealthy thing. I thought it might help to make up some food rules — ways to create better habits. 

I realized that even the super healthy cleanses I’ve done are effectively diets. They’re temporary and they don’t represent the way I eat normally. I went back and read a journal I kept around 2011 (after I had lost 27 pounds) and it actually had a lot of the same thoughts I’m having now. It was good to be reminded of them.

With the exception of sugar, which is absolutely addictive for me, I’m not trying to eliminate any one thing from my diet. I am trying to eat just enough to be full and nothing more. I’m trying to fill a smaller plate and not go back for seconds. If I eat a really big meal, I try to compensate by eating a smaller one later. It’s actually like a weight lifted just to have those “rules” in place. And wouldn’t you know, I’ve lost 11 POUNDS. 

Most of that has been after our trip to Kansas (travel always gets me overeating) and the Thanksgiving leftover bomb. That feels like a big accomplishment. I think the running helps, but I would attribute almost all of the weight loss to eating better. Of course this month is the hardest to resist temptation, and I have definitely indulged in a few things. But overall I feel like I’m finally dealing with bad habits I’ve had my whole life and just trying, little by little, to be better. It’s amazing how many things I’m realizing I do just because I’ve always done them.

I don’t have a weight loss goal in mind. I don’t even know what I should weigh. I’m just going to see how this plays out. I actually think the exercise part is harder right now. I’m working day and night to finish orders and I just don’t have a lot of extra time and energy right now. Plus it’s the rainy season so, for once, we have weather conflicts. But even that I feel pretty good about and I’m set to run a 5k with Mike’s coworkers in March. 

This morning I read this post from Nourished Kitchen, which really resonated with me. It led me to this post about how the cycle of diets/binges/guilt is actually our addiction. I love this part:

It’s such a thrill to start a new diet, like paleo or juice-fasting. We’re like blushing virgin brides each and every time, looking forward to the pleasures to come… adapting recipes, finding new packaged foods, joining groups of people who eat like us, bringing our own food to every social event… (Geez, when I type it out like that it sounds pathetic.) Moderation, by comparison, is dull.

It’s so true! Moderation is totally boring to write about, but it’s the only thing that’s working for me. I have way too many things going on in my life right now to try to overhaul my meal planning, shopping and cooking and try to make it palatable for my entire family. The best I can do is try to be reasonable about food, so that’s what I’m doing. It’s weird. I’ve never really looked at it from this perspective, but I’m hopeful. 

I’m not going to do a bunch of before/after photos so that I can fat shame myself, but I will share anything that works for me going forward, just in case it’s helpful. One thing I noticed after the first month of doing this is that when I started eating a little more (i.e. not feeling stomach-growling hungry) I lost more weight. Also, a few times I skipped breakfast because I wasn’t that hungry in the morning and that wasn’t good. Instead of processed cereal, a longtime fave, I’ve been making omelets with cheese or whatever leftovers I can find. It’s a good protein boost in the morning. 

If you have other advice, especially at getting through the holiday feasting, please share!

3-bean chili, the meat version

I still really love my vegetarian chili recipe, but lately we’ve been eating a meaty version of it, and it’s great, too. For the meat version, I added ground beef, but left out some of the veggies, herbs and chipotle chiles.

So it’s basically a simplified version that’s a little less spicy. Although, you could certainly add the chiles for extra heat or add the veggies to make it healthier. It’s a very adaptable recipe.

We always have our chili with a little bit of cheddar cheese and saltine crackers. These little ones are still my favorite. 

3-bean and beef chili
Serves 8
Hearty chili for cold nights.
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Ingredients
  1. 1 pound ground beef
  2. 1 small (or half large) onion, chopped
  3. 1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
  4. 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  5. 15-ounce can black beans, drained
  6. 15-ounce can dark red kidney beans, drained
  7. 15-ounce can chili beans
  8. 1 tablespoon chili powder
  9. 1 teaspoon cumin
  10. 1 teaspoon salt
  11. Shredded cheddar cheese and saltine crackers (optional)
Instructions
  1. Heat a large soup pot or dutch oven over medium and add the ground beef, onions and green peppers. Cook until the beef browns and the onions are translucent.
  2. Stir in the chili powder, cumin and salt.
  3. Add the tomatoes and all the beans and stir really well. Place a lid on the pot and heat the mixture until it's bubbling.
  4. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for another 15 minutes, stirring often.
  5. Serve with shredded cheese and crackers.
Notes
  1. If you like your chili spicy, add one chipotle chili in adobo sauce with the tomatoes and beans.
Cara Corey http://www.caracorey.com/

Mom’s new booth

Here’s some exciting news — over the weekend I helped my mom get set up in a booth inside the Cordelia Junction antique mall.

I wrote about the mall (which has actual train cars as part of the building) on the Goodsmiths blog back when mom and I checked it out for the first time. We thought it was great, but wanted to see what else was available locally as far as a place for her to sell. Well, there just aren’t a lot of antique malls around here. Most places are either junky stores or really high end places that didn’t seem to fit with what she sells. So we ended up back at Cordelia, and it’s just perfect.

She decided to start off with a small booth and see how it goes. Hers is upstairs right next to this super cool space full of retro midcentury stuff (swoon).

Mom hasn’t had a ton of time here to thrift yet, but she does have a LOT of jewelry. Come check it out if you’re in the area!


I was so excited to repurpose the crappy mirror we found in the garage.

Also, don’t forget to follow mom’s shop on Etsy. Someone needs this fab vintage swing coat!

Road trip: Napa Valley

Last weekend my dad and stepmom were visiting from Denver, so we decided to meet one of Bonnie’s friends at a winery near Calistoga. It made for a lovely road trip passing through several Napa Valley wineries during harvest season.

The winery we toured, Castello di Amorosa, is pretty spectacular and a little quirky. Though it’s newly built, the castle looks like something you’d find touring ancient properties in Europe.

Outside we were surprised to find goats and sheep running loose among the guests.

Harper loved all the animals, especially the chickens.

We were just cracking up watching these goats munch on grape vines, but apparently the grapes had already been picked so it was OK.

We would have liked to tour the wine caves and other parts of the castle, but we were on toddler time, so we went straight to the tasting. Harper got to color and drink grape juice while the adults tasted wines. I highly recommend this place if you need a kid friendly winery.

After that, we went to a really good restaurant in St. Helena called Archetype. Since it was brunch time, I ordered an omelet and bloody Mary, and everything was fantastic. A little pricey, but I would definitely come back.

We’ve done this kind of trip before (to the Coppola winery), so I’m thinking this could become a fun tradition.

Pumpkin patchin’

We had so many good photos from our trip to the pumpkin patch, so I had to share.

It was a little strange to go on such a hot day (probably 80 degrees but felt like 90 in full sun), but we still had a lot of fun.


Mom: not in Kansas anymore.

Harper was determined to pick up pumpkins, throw them, or pull them in the wagon.

She really liked climbing this hay bale tower, which scared the bejeezus out of me.

She is so fearless. She went all the way to the top.

She also zipped through the hay maze.

They had this crazy pumpkin house that was basically a yurt that we used to get some shade.

Then Harper got to sit on the huge pumpkin.

We took a few pumpkins home for carving later. I might have gone a little pumpkin crazy this year, but I just love them so much!

Fall is really the time I miss the Midwest and the change of seasons. I’ll be going back to Kansas in November for my grandma’s funeral, so I guess I’ll get a taste of it then.

Running again

My last attempts at running never went anywhere, but I’m trying again. This time I’ve been doing a couch-to-5k app that has you do a run/walk program for about 30 minutes 3 times a week. It’s exactly what I need right now. I need someone to tell me what to do, and I love that I can listen to my playlists at the same time. I’m not actually training for a 5k, but I would like to be fit enough to do that distance if I felt like it. 

Sometimes the workouts are actually a little bit too easy, but that’s working for me too. If I feel like doing more I can always run during the walking parts. And it means I can always succeed at these workouts. So many times I’ve tried to do too much too fast and I end up hurting and feeling like I failed. 

So I’ve been doing this for two weeks and I’ve already had a sore knee, a broken toe and two days of headaches. Normally that would be enough to make me quit, but I can’t give up this time. I need to do something to give me my energy back and help me get back in shape. And after a year and a half with Harper I can handle a lot more than I used to!

Saying goodbye to grandma Mason

Earlier this week my beloved grandma, Mary Marie Mason, passed away. Obviously she meant a great deal to me. She was my inspiration as a crafter, wife, mother and overall person. I’m not sure I know a kinder person in this world. 

It was heartbreaking for my mom, who was planning to go visit grandma in just a few days, not to be there. One minute we heard that grandma had been taken to the hospital for something fairly minor and the next minute she was in critical condition with a blood clot. So there was no time for us to say our goodbyes. However, I’m sure she knew how much we loved her. And my uncle said that she seemed at peace knowing that she would probably not survive this ordeal. Perhaps realizing her body was failing her after a broken hip, she got to a place that none of us quite realized. So in a way I feel like she was spared a difficult road of transitions, loss of mobility and memory, and everything painful that comes with old age. 

It’s really easy for me to speak in glowing superlatives about my grandma because she really was that extraordinary of a person. She graduated high school early and went to college, eventually becoming a teacher. She was actually a pretty sweet, diminutive person who stayed home to raise her children and loved the traditionally female realm (cooking, sewing, decorating, church choir…). But she had an extraordinary heart. She never had much in the way of material things, but she would give you anything, anything you needed if she could. She gave up a lot to care for her mentally ill sister and later her husband. And she survived cancer. Twice.

Grandma was incredibly resourceful and thrifty. I don’t think she ever threw away a mayonnaise jar or a Cool Whip tub if she could reuse it. She put shower caps over her bowls to keep food fresh in the fridge. She was a dedicated letter writer and she always tucked a bunch of clipped coupons inside her letters. She sewed her own clothes and even doll clothes and little Barbie-sized pillows for us when we were little. She made the most intricate counted cross-stitch samplers, many of which we have framed and will cherish. Her baking was so comforting — pecan pie at Thanksgiving and lemon bars and frosted sugar cookies at Christmas. Her potato salad was legendary and she always had some in the fridge. 

But you know what I will never forget about grandma? Her hugs. When she saw you she would wrap her arms around you and squeeze you to your bones. And for a long time. It’s like she hugged you from her soul. It just felt good. 

I also always admired my grandparents’ marriage. They were happily married for more than 50 years. They seemed to have mutual interests and mutual respect for each other that you don’t often see. It slays me to think of them walking down a sidewalk holding hands or my grandma washing grandpa’s hair in the sink when he couldn’t anymore. 

My mom was saying how we carry on grandma’s legacy every day by raising Harper. My grandma loved children. She wanted several but was lucky just to be able to have two since she had endometriosis that was not easily treated at the time. I think she was probably most proud of her family — all smart, loving people doing interesting things. I’m only sorry that she couldn’t be here to see more of the next generation born. I guess that’s the hardest thing to accept — that the people you love most won’t live forever and that someday you will have to let them go. 

It’s a nice feeling to know that every time someone orders something with me they will get a little tribute to my grandma and her legacy of art, craft, thrift, and love. 

XO grandma. Miss you already. 

Beach day in Pescadero

Last weekend we really needed a break from all the projects around the house, so we decided to get out of town and take a hike. Except that when we arrived at our starting point, Bean Hollow beach in Pescadero, we realized our hike was going to turn into a day at the beach. So we went with it. 

I knew that Harper, being the adventurous soul that she is, would want to go in the water. But I didn’t realize just how much she would like it, or how eager she would be to walk into some pretty strong waves. 

So we took turns holding her while the waves splashed over her little legs. She kept signing “more” over and over. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen her do that for anything other than food. 

It’s a pretty long drive to Pescadero, but we really liked that beach. It seemed less crowded than most beaches around here, and it had lots of interesting rocks and birds. 

Mike even found a sea anemone. 

The people there seemed really friendly, too. One guy even came up and offered to take some pictures of Mike and Harper. He did a great job!

Afterward we drove to Santa Cruz and had dinner at Pizzeria Avanti. I was a little skeptical when we drove up to this worn strip mall, but the restaurant was nice inside and the food (artichokes, padron peppers, and a sausage pizza) were excellent. 

My sister is coming in less than two weeks and we’re already planning our next adventure to Big Sur!

Mom’s bathroom reveal

The bathroom is finally done!

We had some delayed gratification with it because just as we had all the pieces ready to install, we found a problem with the sink plumbing. We also decided to get help installing the toilet, so we had to have our contractor come by twice before it was all said and done. But it is done, and it is gorgeous!

Just so you can appreciate what an incredible transformation it was, here is what the bathroom looked like before (sorry for the bad photos).

The decor in there was probably as old as me, if not older. Plus, the floor around the toilet was rotted from a previous water leak, so that had to be fixed.

We started by having our contractor remove the ugly tiles and replace the wood subfloor. Then we stripped the dated wallpaper and painted it a lovely blue-gray color.

After having watched a LOT of home improvement shows and read plenty of home improvement blogs, we decided we could lay new tile ourselves. Mike watched some YouTube videos and asked our contractor a bunch of questions and he felt confident he could do the work. The tile turned out to be one of the easiest DIY projects we did, and I think it completely makes the room.

We wanted a kind of antique looking floor, and I love the way the hex tiles complement the more modern style of the other pieces in the room.

The medicine cabinet is from Lowe’s. The sink cabinet and faucet are from IKEA. I love that the cabinet has dividers inside the soft-close drawers.

Harper has already discovered all the goodies inside.

We went on a wild goose chase for a super low-flow toilet and ended up finding it at Lowe’s.

I know it’s a small thing, but it’s amazing how much new outlets and light switches can improve the look of a room.

We are so happy with how this bathroom turned out. We keep asking each other, “Have you looked at the bathroom today?” It’s like an instant stress reliever.

Our last two big projects are the garage organization and the main bathroom remodel. We were just going to redo the bathroom floor and replace the toilet and sink/medicine cabinets. But now we’re wondering if we shouldn’t just redo the whole thing while we’re at it. So we haven’t decided what to do yet, but at least we know we can do the tile ourselves and we’re confident we can improve the style about a thousand percent!

Oh, and if you’re wondering about the cost, it came in around $2,000 for the whole project. I don’t think there’s any question it will pay off in the long run. Here’s the breakdown:

subfloor replacement: $800
help with installation: $300
toilet: $150 (though we’re looking into a rebate that would make it almost free)
sink cabinet: $250
faucet: $70
medicine cabinet: $45
tile + supplies: approx. $250, can you believe that?
wallpaper removal: $20
paint and trim: $65
towel bar: $25
toilet roll holder: $21
outlet + light switch: $25
corner shelf: $35 (can’t find the link but it was Threshold at Target)
Total: $2056

Vintage costumes in mom’s shop

Just had to share some fun items my mom has in her Etsy shop right now. Great options for a Halloween costume party, perhaps?

This mid-century party dress is gorgeous. All you need is a pair of pumps and a highball glass to go with it.

This burlesque outfit is just so great. Not sure what occasion requires it, but someone has to have it.

This Victorian capelet is perfect for an 1800s costume or some kind of Tim Burton character.

And oh my gosh doesn’t this crazy quilted pantsuit crack you up?

We think someone might have sewn it themselves from a ’70s pattern.

Anyway, lots of fun stuff to look at, and she’s adding more all the time.