Body Spring Cleaning

Body Spring Cleaning

We eat pretty healthy around here. My brother nicknamed me Organica. My teenage nephew laments the contents of my pantry when he visits–”All you have is healthy stuff!” My friend recently brought some kid’s drinks for an event and jokingly said “I checked the ingredients and I think they’re pretty good. There’s just a tiny bit of MSG in there.” Everyone got a good laugh.

If what I buy isn’t a whole food (fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy) I check the label.  And I don’t just look for calories and fat content. In fact, I rarely look at those. What I do look for is sodium and sugar content and the list of ingredients. If there are too many ingredients and I don’t know exactly what they are, it’s not going in the cart. Contrary to what my brother believes, I don’t buy all organic. I buy organic when I can–when it’s affordable and when it makes the biggest difference. Check out the info graphic below for more details on when it makes sense to buy organic:

image via Environmental Working Group

image via Environmental Working Group

 

Consider the popcorn labels below. It’s easy to grab a box from the aisle. But it takes just a moment to compare the two labels to notice that the product on the left has artificial and chemical ingredients. You probably know all or most of the ingredients in the product on the right. It’s the better choice even if the sources weren’t organic. Try doing this with corn chips. It’s pretty easy to find chips that contain simply corn, oil and salt.

Popcorn Labels

In spite of the tricks mentioned above, we still have some cleaning up to do in terms of food and fitness. I have a lot of cleaning up to do in terms of fitness but that’s another post for another day. We, like so many families, are really busy during the week. If we don’t plan ahead for meals we find ourselves eating out too often which is the number one way to consume too many calories, too much sodium and other junk. And, it’s really tough on our monthly budget. If we don’t grab something on the go we might snack during the day without eating a filling lunch and then come home and eat everything in the house. That’s just about as unhealthy as eating out. Really clean nutrition is the key to meeting fitness goals. You can work out all you want but if your diet is poor or sub-par, your results will be limited.

I’ve recently been inspired by Megan of Honey We’re Healthy and a colleague who is in amazing shape! I mean Ah-mazing! Both women have prioritized working out and very clean eating. Their results speak for themselves. They inspired me to clean it up around here.

I made the two-week rotating menu below and we follow it pretty well. We might make Tuesday’s dinner on a Monday depending on what ingredients we have on hand. But overall, it’s been helpful for our family to map out our meals in advance. We have all noticed a difference in the way we feel and Dylan has seen improved results from his workouts. Me, on the other hand. I need to get with the (fitness) program. More to come on that.

What kind of spring cleaning have you done lately? Do you have a workout program you just love? Let me know. I need all the inspiration and motivation I can get.

SUNDAY

MONDAY

TUESDAY

WEDNESDAY

6:00 Hash browns & Eggs 

9:00 Fresh Fruit

12:00 Tuna Salad

3:00 Cheese cubes & Fruit

6:00 Grilled Shrimp Tacos

6:00 Protein Pancake 

9:00 Almonds & Raisins

12:00 Thai Chicken Salad

3:00 Celery with Nut Butter (pb, almond)

6:00 Light Fettuccine Alfredo

6:00 Protein Smoothie 

9:00 Hummus & Carrots

12:00 Chick Pea Salad

3:00 Homemade Granola Bar

6:00 Tortilla Soup

6:00 Veggie Omelet 

9:00 Apples & Almond Butter

12:00 Quinoa Caprese Salad

3:00 Rice cakes, Tzatziki, peppers

6:00 Chicken Marsala, Brown Rice

6:00 Hash browns & Eggs 

9:00 Fresh Fruit

12:00 Tuna Salad

3:00 Cheese cubes & fruit

6:00 Taco Turkey Casserole

6:00 Protein Pancake 

9:00 Almonds & Raisins

12:00 Greek Pasta Salad with Chicken

3:00 Celery with Nut Butter (pb, almond)

6:00 Soup, Salad & Roll

6:00 Protein Smoothie 

9:00 Hummus & Carrots

12:00 Spinach Salad

3:00 Homemade Granola Bar

6:00 Tomato & Wine Braised Chicken, Rice

6:00 Veggie Omelet 

9:00 Apples & Almond Butter

12:00 Bagel w/Cream Cheese & Smoked Salmon

3:00 Rice cakes, Tzatziki, peppers

6:00 Cobb Salad w/Choice of Protein

 

THURSDAY

FRIDAY

SATURDAY

6:00 Breakfast Egg Sandwich

9:00 Greek Yogurt with Granola

12:00 Tex Mex

3:00 Homemade Trail Mix

6:00 Chop Salad w/Choice of Protein

6:00 Oatmeal

9:00 String cheese & Fresh Fruit

12:00 Tex Mex

3:00 Almonds & Dried Cranberries

6:00 Build-your-own-pizza

6:00 Apple Puff Pancake

9:00 Free choice

12:00 Free choice

3:00 Free choice

6:00 Garden Burger

6:00 Breakfast Egg Sandwich

9:00 Greek Yogurt with Granola

12:00 Pear & Gorgonzola Salad

3:00 Homemade Trail Mix

6:00 Turkey Chili

6:00 Oatmeal

9:00 String cheese & Fresh Fruit

12:00 Turkey Chili

3:00 Almonds & Dried Fruit

6:00 Build-your-own-pizza

6:00 Apple Puff Pancake

9:00 Free choice

12:00 Free choice

3:00 Free choice

6:00 Spaghetti with Turkey Meatballs

Healthy, Homemade Granola Bars

Healthy, Homemade Granola Bars

I got the recipe below from a friend of a friend and it has sat in my binder for the past three years. I decided it was time to give it a try and I’m glad I did. They are so tasty!These are the perfect, protein-packed snack for your little athlete. They’re also great for lunches or that mid-day snack when you start to crave sugar.

The recipe can be customized any way you like to adjust for preferences or food allergies. The options are endless. As long as you follow the simple steps of preparing your chosen dry ingredients, wet ingredients (a.k.a. the glue that holds it all together), and dried fruit, you’re sure to have a winning combination. If you come up with something great, let me know. I’d love to hear from you.

I didn’t have crushed peanuts so I added 1/2 cup of peanut butter to the wet ingredients. Because of that my bars turned out a little softer. But they were still delicious!

Homemade high protein granola bars

Homemade Granola Bars

Dry Ingredients

  • 2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • ¾ cup wheat germ
  • ¾ cup non-salted sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup crushed peanuts

Wet Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup honey
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt

 

  •  8 ounces dried fruit of your choice and/or coconut

Instructions

Mix and toast dry ingredients in the oven at 400 degrees for about 8 minutes stirring at 4 minutes. At the same time, mix the wet ingredients in a sauce pan, bring to a boil for 1-2 minutes.

In a large bowl mix dry ingredients, wet ingredients and dried fruit. Place mixture in a wax paper lined 13×9 inch pan. Top mixture with wax paper and push down flat until you have an even mixture. Let sit over night to set. Cut into 16 bars in the morning.

Custom Console Table

Custom Console Table

You may remember me complaining about our worn out, too small, very uncomfortable couch in my House Anniversary post. We bit the bullet this summer and finally ordered the Henry Sectional from West Elm. After going back and forth between two colors I decided on Performance Velvet in Otter. I love it! The fabric is so soft. It’s a microfiber which means it’s easy to care for but it has a longer nap so it feels more like velvet.

The sectional takes up the entire corner leaving no room for side tables. I ordered the sectional with one shorter side to leave room for a console table. I knew finding a console table long enough would be a challenge and possibly very expensive. We looked at several options before deciding that Dylan could build one that is the right size and for the right price.

I told Dylan the dimensions I wanted and the basic look and he nailed it! The finished table measures 18 inches wide and 8 feet long. I painted it Galveston Gray by Benjamin Moore. It’s a paint color I am also using in our kitchen remodel.

console table 1

console table 2

console table 3

painted console table

I love how it turned out. The best part is that, after packing them around for over 20 years, we finally have a place to display our fathers’ flags and that makes me a happy girl.
custom sofa table 2

custom sofa table

sofa table 2

Living Room Before

Living Room Before

Living Room After

Living Room After

Yakima River Canyon Cattle Drive

Yakima River Canyon Cattle Drive

I had some work to do in Ellensburg on Saturday and Kendall rode along. We decided to take the Yakima River Canyon Road on the way home hoping to see the  bighorn sheep for ourselves. We didn’t see any sheep but we were treated to an animal experience of another kind.

As I headed into the canyon a road sign warned of traffic delays. I hesitated for a moment and considered getting on the main freeway. But, I decided to take a risk and stay on our route.  Halfway into the canyon we saw this heading toward us:

Yakima River Canyon Cattle Drive 1

Kendall and I were so excited! We pulled over to the side of the road, grabbed my camera, started snapping photos and otherwise tried to stay out of the way.

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Half of the herd had passed when Kendall spotted someone making her way along the side of the road.

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And then came the second half of the herd. We loved this beautiful girl–white outlined in black.
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The annual cattle drive has been an Eaton family and friends tradition for years. Although it wasn’t on our agenda for that chilly, foggy Saturday, Kendall and I were thrilled that we accidentally bumped into these folks.

Next time we will find a spot way off the road to park, sit back and watch everyone amble by so that this doesn’t happen again:

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Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn Sheep

I grew up seeing these signs in Central and Eastern Washington. In my 41 years living in Washington State I have never seen bighorn sheep so I wondered if they really existed or if the signs were outdated.
bighorn sheep sign

Dylan was working in the Yakima River Canyon the other day and snapped this photo with his phone.

yakima bighorn sheep

I was so excited! It was like that M&Ms commercial….”They do exist”.

Quick Barstool Update

Quick Barstool Update

I had these very orange saddle seat bar stools that didn’t match anything in the house.
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I decided to give them a quick facelift. I wanted to test out the Minwax Polyshades in Classic Black Satin to see if that’s what I want to use to re-do our stair railing. It was a great chance to kill two birds with one stone.

This is what the stools looked like after one coat. I actually kind of liked this look but decided to keep going.
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The stool on the left has one coat, the stools on the right have two.
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After they dried completely I was left with pretty bland looking black stools that I didn’t love. And I decided that the satin sheen isn’t the right choice for the stair rail in the future. It will be gloss for sure. I took a medium grit sanding block and sanded around the edges of the stool to get an antique/weathered black look (un-sanded on the left below, sanded on the right). It made all the difference. I love the finished product!

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You can use this technique for just about anything–chairs, tables, dressers. These are the steps I followed:

  • Lightly sand entire surface with a medium grit sanding block. You don’t need to strip off the old finish, you just need to rough it up.
  • Apply the first coat and let dry completely overnight.
  • Rub steel wool (000 or 0000) over the entire surface. This helps the next coat adhere.
  • Apply the second coat. Let dry overnight. You may even want to let it dry for two days depending on the temperature and humidity.
  • Use a medium grit sanding block along the edges until you get the look you want.

stools after

There’s a New Cookie in Town

There’s a New Cookie in Town

If you were around last year you may remember my affinity for Scandinavian Almond Bars. These delectable treats have reigned as my favorite cookie for nearly twenty years. But hold on, there’s a new cookie in town that’s giving the almond bars a good run for their money.

When I saw this headline “TODAY producer’s cookie makes Orlando Bloom swoon” I just had to check it out. If Orlando Bloom loves them, surely my family would too. Four ingredients—that’s it! If you have butter, brown sugar, graham crackers and pecans you can make this easy cookie that is sure to change your life. Okay, maybe not change your life but it will certainly take center stage at your next office event or cookie exchange party.

Ingredients:

  • Graham crackers (laid out whole)
  • 1 cup of butter
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 cup of chopped pecans

Directions:

  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Put parchment paper on a cookie sheet, then place graham crackers so they cover the entire cookie sheet.
  • Melt butter over medium high heat. Add the brown sugar.
  • Stir brown sugar into butter until melted. Bring to slight rolling boil.
  • Cook and stir for two minutes. Add the chopped pecans.
  • Pour mixture over graham crackers.
  • Bake in the oven for 10 minutes.
  • Cut while still warm.

These are delicious as-is. But, I have decided to, as Emeril Legasse likes to say, “kick it up a notch”. I will be making them again this weekend and will add a drizzle of dark chocolate and a sprinkle of sea salt. It doesn’t get any more divine than that!

Graham Cracker Bar 1

Graham Cracker Bar 2

Graham Cracker Bars 3

4-Ingredient Graham Cracker Bars TODAY Show

Enjoy.

Original recipe found here.

Being the Sun

Being the Sun

There is an Aesop Fable that my 3rd grade teacher read to our class and it’s something I still think about today. It goes like this;

The Wind and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger. Suddenly they saw a traveller coming down the road, and the Sun said: “I see a way to decide our dispute. Whichever of us can cause that traveller to take off his cloak shall be regarded as the stronger. You begin.” So the Sun retired behind a cloud, and the Wind began to blow as hard as it could upon the traveller. But the harder he blew the more closely did the traveller wrap his cloak round him, till at last the Wind had to give up in despair. Then the Sun came out and shone in all his glory upon the traveller, who soon found it too hot to walk with his cloak on.

The message, of course, is that it’s easier to influence someone gently rather than by brute force. This concept comes in handy when it comes to this girl:

photo 2[1]

 

In preparation for her holiday program, she asked for an outfit with “pazzow!”. We found a dress that we agreed on; the shoes are another story. She insisted on buying heels. I tried to be the wind. I insisted that she wasn’t going to be comfortable, that heels weren’t appropriate for a second grader. I told her I would not buy them for her. But, in the end, I decided that sometimes being the sun means letting kids figure things out for themselves. So I bought the kitten heals with the bling for my girl because she wanted to be “GLAM-OR-OUS!”  Who was I to stand in her way?

She practiced walking around the house wobbling on her unsteady feet assuring me she was fine and that the shoes fit and were comfortable. The night of her program came. She ran into the school hallway to greet her teacher on her wobbly shoes mentioning something about how slippery they were. Luckily her teacher understands seconds graders–our second grader specifically, otherwise she might have shot me that “You didn’t really buy her heels, did you?!” look.

Dylan and I seated ourselves and watched the kids walk down the steep steps of the theater in a neat row. I cringed thinking about Taylor navigating the steps in those shoes—the shoes she just had to have. And then it happened. She went down. Dylan and I looked away quickly, not wanting her to see that we saw her fall. We try not to be “I told you so” parents. Plus, she gets embarrassed easily. She recovered quickly and looked around to make sure that none of the 300 people in the audience saw her.

She got on-stage and performed all 200 songs that her class had been practicing since September. As the show went on her facial expressions changed. Our smiling girl started grimacing and moving from one foot to the other and back. At the end of the show we met her in the child pick-up area as she was rubbing her poor feet.

photo 1[1]

She handed me her shoes and Dylan carried her out to the car. On the way home our conversation went a little like this:

T:            My legs and feet are still exhausted!

Me:        Heels are hard. They’re hard on your feet and hard on your legs.

T:            Yeah.

Me:        Next year we will make sure you have flats.

T:            Yeah. I’ll wear flats the next two years and then heels for my band concert when I’m in middle school. Oh, but wait! Heels aren’t allowed in band.

Me:        Right. Let’s hold off on the heels for a while. You’ll have plenty of time to wear them when you’re older.

T:            Okay. (rubbing her feet)

As parents, sometimes we have to brace for the storm and sometimes it’s best to be the sun.

Painting Tips for Cabinets and Furniture

Painting Tips for Cabinets and Furniture

A friend asked me the other day about a cabinet refinishing product. I haven’t tried any packaged products however, I do have tried and true steps that work for me when it comes to painting cabinets and furniture. And trust me, I’ve had a TON of practice these past 16 months. I’m not ready to do a kitchen reveal–far from it–but I will show you a sneak peek.

I used a step-by-step process to take the cabinetry in the house from dark and dated to light and bright.

Before: dark and dated oak

Before: dark and dated oak

After: warm, glossy white

After: warm, glossy white

This is what you need to know:

Paint Quality Matters

Choose a high quality paint. Working with cabinets or wood furniture is not the time to skimp on quality–paint quality varies greatly. High quality paint costs more but will save you time, energy and money in the long run. If you use an inexpensive or basic paint, chances are you will have to repaint much sooner. I use Benjamin Moore Advance semi-gloss paint on cabinets, furniture and trim. It was recommended by a local furniture maker who made a couple of dressers for us. BM Advance has excellent coverage and leveling properties.

Right Tools for the Job

The old adage “use the right tool for the job” applies to painting too. I use a high quality angled brush and a 6 inch mini-roller with a 1/4 nap mohair blend cover–perfect for furniture and cabinetry. This combination of tools along with the leveling properties of the BM Advance paint leave the perfect finish.

mini roller

mohair roller

Take Your Time

Painting furniture is a multi-step process. Don’t expect to knock out a set of cabinets in one weekend. The time and effort you put in now will ensure you are happy with the end product and that the paint lasts.

Follow These Steps:

  1. Remove doors, drawers and hardware. Set-up doors and drawers in a staging area (garage, shop, basement).
  2. Lightly sand all surfaces. You don’t need to remove the finish, you just need to rough it up. You can use a sanding block or a palm sander with medium grit sandpaper.
  3. Prime, let dry
  4. Lightly sand
  5. Prime, let dry
  6. Lightly sand
  7. Paint first coat, let dry 12-24 hours
  8. Lightly sand–your goal is to knock down any wood grain that is raised and rough up the top sheen. This helps the next coat of paint adhere better.
  9. Paint second coat, let dry 12-24 hours
  10. Mark and drill for your hardware if you are adding or changing knobs & pulls
  11. Lightly sand
  12. Paint final coat on cabinet/furniture frames. Let dry at least 24 hours. 48 hours is ideal.
  13. Hang cabinet doors and paint final coat on front of doors**
  14. Install drawers. Be sure to put round rubber disks on the corners of your drawers and cabinets so that they don’t stick to the frames and pull the paint off. They are inexpensive and you can find them in your hardware section.

**I complete the back sides of the cabinet doors first to prevent the fronts from getting marked up. Prime and sand both sides. Paint and sand the backs using steps 7-12 above. Allow to dry completely (24-48 hours). Turn doors over, use cardboard underneath to protect the new surface, and then paint and sand the fronts using steps 7-11. Hang the doors and do step 13. This process takes more time but the flawless finish is worth it.

Good luck with your project.

 

Easy, Vegetarian Crock Pot Refried Beans

Easy, Vegetarian Crock Pot Refried Beans

I love this vegetarian beans recipes. It’s so simple–just 7 ingredients plus water. I make a big batch in the crock pot, blend it up to use as a dip with corn chips or to serve on their own with Spanish rice and tortillas. I use the leftover beans for a family favorite recipe–Mexican Dish. The best thing about these–they are healthy, low in sodium, fat-free and gluten-free. These are so much healthier than refried beans.

image via 100daysofrealfood.com

image via 100daysofrealfood.com

Easy Crock Pot Beans (original recipe found here.)

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups dry pinto beans
  • 8 1/2 cups water
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper, de-seeded and minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Preparation:
Combine all ingredients in a crock pot or slow cooker. Cover and cook on medium-high for 8 hours.

Drain out most of the water. Mash the beans with a potato masher or puree them in a food processor, adding back in some of the liquid to the desired consistency.

I’m off to start the crock pot. Happy Sunday.

For more healthy recipe ideas, check out 100 Days of Real Food.