That's Some Stellar Parenting

I have felt like a stellar mother this week (insert dripping sarcasm here).  I am in no way a morning person and thankfully this job has eased me into the early morning thing with each morning of work being an hour earlier.  However, it kills me that I live a ten to fifteen minute drive from the hospital and yet, it takes me over an hour to get to work using the public transportation system.  The other morning I woke up at the still-night-hour of 5:45 to get ready to be at work by 8am. Munchkie's Daddy had his first presentation of the school year and was a nervous wreck.  I noticed that he wasn't in bed with me and when I went into the living room he was just lying down on the couch.  I told him to go to bed.  What good would he be at a presentation if he got next to no sleep, and the hour or so that he got was on the couch?  After sending him to bed, I rushed around trying to get ready.  As I was trying to get out of the door, a little face was smiling at me over a baby gate.  That sweet little face says to me, "Look Mama!  I wake up!"  Oh no!  Why?!?  Why did she have to wake up so early?!?!  I whispered to her, "Mama has to go to work, play in your room for a little while so Daddy can sleep."  Next thing I knew there was crying, no she didn't want to do that.  She wanted to be with Mama.  Naturally.  So I did what every good mother running out the door does.  I poured a bowl of cereal, filled a sippy cup with milk and turned PBS on, leaving the door to Munchkie's Daddy opened and raced out the door.  I was slightly late to work, but so were other new people, so I didn't feel so bad about that.  However, all morning I was a complete mess about running out the door like that.  Besides the fact that I don't really like that I am leaving my daughter most days with what feels like a stranger who's name I know, mornings like this make it extremely difficult to walk through the door and away from her. 

Today, I was scheduled to work for twelve hours, the shift that I will be working.  Somehow we got very lucky and they decided to cut our training a little short today, so I was home shortly after seven.  Normally I will be getting home around 8:30.  This means that I will be gone from before 6:00am until around 8:30am.  If I work two days in a row, I will not see Munchkie for those two days.  At all.  Oh, this is a very difficult realization.  While life in a city has so many advantages at times, being able to walk down to a market, having a huge aquarium or park nearby and having access to a very reliable public transportation system, it also means that it takes a while to get anywhere.  I just don't know how I will be able to handle this.  I love my family and my family comes first in everything.  Not being able to see Munchkie, hear about her day, talk to her or even get a hug is going to be extremely difficult.  I guess that it will be a learning experience for all of us. 

We will have to learn how to make the time we do have together incredible.  This makes it very difficult to want to do necessary things around the house.  I feel like even reading the mail is taking time away from spending time with Munchkie.  Right now I am writing this quickly, since she just went to bed and I need to do the same.  I cannot bring myself to set my alarm clock for any earlier than 5am, so I have one alarm set for 5am and another "no really, wake up now" alarm set for 5:15am.  Hopefully by the time I come home tomorrow, I will still be functioning enough to make Saturday a wonderful together time day.  Each day home has to count, has to make up for those days that the time spent together is only moments, if any. 

These few and far between times together, along with racing out the door leaving a crying child behind and not being able to provide more than a bowl of cold, dry cereal, does not make me feel like a good mother at all.  I don't know how other mothers do it.  I just don't.


Happy Birthday?

Today was Munchkie's Daddy's birthday.  It was definitely an off day and I feel so bad for it not being a good birthday.  Munchkie's Daddy was in a funk all day, then he finally told me that he just felt like it was any other day.  He's known for a while what his present was going to be, and we're waiting to get it, so he didn't have anything to open.  He slept in this morning (something he wanted), so we didn't go out to breakfast or anything special. We had church this evening, so we couldn't go out to dinner. I tried to make him a lime cheesecake (sugar free and grain free), and it only turned out so so. 

Then there were my issues.  I start work tomorrow.  *sigh*  This month has just gone by so fast.  I am so thankful for every minute that I had off of work, but it went by so fast.  It's just unbelievable, well I think that my maternity leave went by faster and it was much harder to go back to work then, but this is still hard.  I had so many things that I wanted to get accomplished. I wanted to be completely unpacked- there are two boxes sitting in the hallway. I wanted to master the public transportation system- eh, well, I've ridden it a couple times, but I definitely wouldn't call it mastered. I wanted to be completely comfortable riding my bike everywhere so I wouldn't have to get to work a sweaty mess, I still have yet to be magically physically fit.  I also wanted to get several sewing projects completed and I was, to be completely honest, kind of scared of my sewing machine (I was afraid my project would be too big for me to handle, so I never got it down).  So today, I spent all day in the kitchen.  I think I was trying to make up for lost time.  I canned Munchkie's Daddy's Nana's sweet and sour green beans and spicy pickles with produce from the farmer's market, neither of which I had done before.  I then tackled the grain free, sugar free (stevia is my natural calorie free substitute of choice) lime cheesecake.  I was planning on making a grain free loaf of pumpkin bread, but I ran out of time.  So I threw it together when we got home from church and put it in the oven while we sang happy birthday and ate cheesecake together.

I think it was just a bummer of a day altogether.  I was bummer about work.  Munchkie's Daddy was bummed about it being a normal, homework filled, day.  Getting old stinks.  Happy Birthday Munchkie's Daddy!  We will celebrate better a day this week, I promise.


The Most Unusual "Pizza"

I know when I told Munchkie's Daddy that I wasn't going to be eating wheat he was incredibly resistant.  I think he thought we'd be eating plain chicken breast and steamed broccoli.  I say we because if I'm cooking dinner, it will be for everyone.  He won't read "Wheat Belly" and so thinks I'm off my rocker, as probably most of you do.  I just wanted to show you what kinds of things I am eating while being gluten free.  I'm also trying to stay away from other replacement carbs such as rice and potatoes for the most part.

This year Munchkie has had several issues that have surprised both of us.  First she had some respiratory stuff that requires inhalers at times, we're not sure if it's allergies or maybe asthma.  Then she started having skin stuff going on.  We're assuming it's eczema but it only goes away for a few hours to a day before it's back in full swing.  I personally think it's something food related, since it began once she started daycare and eating more meals (non-organic) outside of our home.  Munchkie's Daddy and I disagree on this one.  So I'm trying to edge her towards a wheat free and organic diet.  We'll see.

So here is what I ate today.

 For breakfast I had hot coconut flaxseed "cereal" which was so filling that I could hardly eat half of it.  It's unsweetened shredded coconut with ground flaxseed and milk (I used almond milk) and microwave for a minute.  Then add some walnuts and I added more milk after because it was kind of dry for me.
I found this recipe for gluten free goldfish, so I looked for one without cornstarch then Munchkie and I made them together.  They were a huge hit.  I doubled the recipe, hoping to have them for a while.  They were gone by dinner.  All of them.  As you can see, tip toes were just enough.  While I did not think they were like goldfish crackers, they were definitely delicious.
 Since the oven was already on, and I had kale from the farmer's market, so I made some kale chips to munch on.  While I was pulling out the kale I set some golden cherry tomatoes on the counter.  Munchkie instantly wanted to have some "toe-manoes" and we started popping tomatoes in our mouths.  Next thing I knew, the whole pint was gone and I had to distract Munchkie from that fact with the cooled cheese crackers.
 I also bought stone ground pure cacao chocolate at the farmer's market.  It is unlike any chocolate I've ever had before.  I actually am starting to prefer dark chocolate, eating 85% dark chocolate by itself, so this 70% was quite sweet to me.
 And for dinner, pizza.  This took quite a while to make and I don't know that I would say that it was "just like pizza."  It was good though.  I enjoyed it and Munchkie's Daddy had three pieces.
So how did I make pizza staying away from wheat?  Or any grain?  Well, it is definitely not something I would ever think of.

Wheat Free Pizza ~ from Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis M.D.
  • 1 head of cauliflower cut into 1 to 2 inch pieces (the head I got at the farmer's market was bigger than my head, it was way too much)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (this was not enough cheese for me, I needed more)
  • 12 ounces pizza sauce
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Garlic powder
  • choice of meat and veggies for toppings
  1. Cook the cauliflower by boiling for 20 minutes or steaming.
  2. Mash the cooked cauliflower until it looks like mashed potatoes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly coat pizza pan with olive oil.
  4. Add the olive oil, eggs, 1 cup mozzarella cheese and I added basil, oregano and garlic powder at this time.
  5. Pour the cauliflower mixture onto the pizza pan and press out into a flat pizza-like shape that is no more than 1/2 inch thick with "crusts" around the edge.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes.  I wish that I had put mine back in for a could more minutes.
  7. Remove the crust (leaving the oven on) and spread the pizza sauce, sprinkle the remaining cheese and add toppings.  His recipe calls for the oregano, basil and pepper at this time as well as an additional 1/2 cup of olive oil and 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese over top.  We left this out.
  8. Bake until cheese is melted, 10 to 15 minutes.
  9. Cut the pizza and use a spatula to get out, you will have to eat with a fork, you can't really pick it up.


Fried Green Tomatoes

 While I am trying to avoid wheat and other carbohydrates I have to find creative ways to made dinner.  The other day I saw a post about making salsa and decided to use the abundance of tomatoes we have to made some salsa.  The Zesty Salsa turned out pretty well, I didn't have enough jalepenos so it wasn't quite as zesty as we would have liked.  I ended up with ten jars of salsa, nine of which I canned so we can enjoy it for many more months.  While I was making the salsa I had a moment of panic when I thought I wouldn't have enough tomatoes so I went running down the three flights of stairs to my first floor neighbor's door to ask for more tomatoes.  He had told me that he was tired of tomatoes and would be throwing the plants out once I took all the tomatoes I wanted.  So I grabbed every tomato that was even remotely reddish and then quite a few green ones in case I needed more.  Turns out that I was a little overzealous and had way more tomatoes than room in my pot. So I was left with quite a few green tomatoes.

When my parents came to help us move in my mom wanted to make fried green tomatoes for us with some farmer's market tomatoes.  The tomatoes she had were a green variety and were too ripe to really make a fried tomato.  I decided to try again last night with the left over salsa tomatoes.  The no carb thing posed a little bit of a challenge and so I went looking in my pantry.  I found almonds and ground flax seed.  Both of which are very healthy and will coat the outside of a tomato.  They turned out pretty good and this meal was so filling that I could not eat much more than half of what is on my plate.  I had used this recipe for Sesame Crusted Salmon and coated our albacore since I didn't have any salmon. 

Wheat Free Fried Green Tomatoes
Several Green Tomatoes
Egg Whites
1/2 cup sliced almonds crunched up into fine crumbs
1/3 cup ground flax seed
Seasings- I used oregano, basil and a small pinch of salt

Slice the tomatoes, put the egg white in a bowl and the almond/flax mixture onto a plate.  Dip the tomatoes in the egg white and then coat in crumb mixture.  Place into hot skillet with a small amount of olive oil and cook until golden brown on each side, flipping as needed.


The Evolution of My Diet

**This ended up being much longer than I anticipated.  Oops!**

Growing up my mother was extremely health conscious.  We hardly ever had processed foods in our house, it was a special occasion when we had sugary cereal, chips, or other junk foods.  In fact, when my brother was young he said that every night we had "salad and gross stuff" for dinner.  This gross stuff being some kind of baked or grilled meat, fruit and some kind of grain such as rice, cous cous or pasta.  I really can't tell you a time I ever saw my mom pull a meal out of the freezer that she had actually bought in the freezer section at the grocery store.  She was ahead of her time, preparing what would now be called "whole food" meals, cooking in bulk to freeze and preparing uncooked meals to freeze for a convenience meal later.  So although I was still overweight growing up, at baseline, we had a healthy diet.

I first started to notice weight gain the summer after my senior year of high school and before I went to college.  That summer I babysat for a family, feeding their children during the day and eating the same foods myself.  Their house was completely full of processed convenience foods.  We would eat lunch, then a little while later I would be hungry again, so I would have a snack and this vicious cycle continued.  By the time I went to college, my clothes were feeling pretty tight and a few months in, I was pretty depressed.  Taking the suggestion of my roomate, I went to see a doctor.  I ended up doing what a huge amount of young girls do, I started a low dose birth control pill to even out my hormones.  During college my weight went up and down over the years and six days after graduation I got married.
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What a shock marriage was!  We had to buy, plan and prepare all of our food on top of getting used to marriage and working full time.  We resorted to eating out or frozen packaged meals for just about every meal.  My weight went up and up and up.  I joined Weight Watchers and did have some weight loss, but then the weight loss stopped and I got discouraged and realized that almost all of the food that I ate was packaged, carb loaded and full of chemicals because if it was in a package, it was easy to know the point value.  This was when I started to read about organic foods.  I then heard about Suzanne Somers from my aunt and uncle, so read her book "Eat Great, Lose Weight" and learned about things like glycemic index.  I followed her diet, strict as it was, and began to feel pretty good, even lost some weight.  But this diet was pretty difficult to follow when you are eating a lot of frozen prepared foods.  She divides all food into a few different categories and explains how to plan your meals so that you are eating the rights kinds of foods in the right kinds of combinations.  You absolutely can not mix carbs with proteins or fats in the same meal, which means- you can eat that pasta, but make sure there is absolutely no oil on the pasta, the sauce or even on that side salad.  That is not easy.

So I resorted back to Weight Watchers again, keeping in the back of my mind the knowledge I learned from Suzanne Somers, knowing that her diet plan really did help me to feel better.  I didn't really see any change while doing Weight Watchers a second time and got discouraged.  With the addition of a depo provera shot, my weight crept up higher and higher.  In the beginning of May 2008 after some lab tests I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and began levothyroxine.  I began to feel better and noticed a decrease in symptoms.   Then I found out I was knocked up, and we moved across the country (can you say stress?). I tried to eat healthily while I was pregnant, it also gave an excuse to give in to cravings.  Then after my beautiful little Munchkie was born in March of the next year I couldn't believe how big I was, which made me depressed, which made me eat more, which made me depressed, you see where this is going.
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My obsession with The Biggest Looser led me to Jillian Michael's "Master Your Metabolism."  Her scientific explanations made complete sense to me and I felt like she wrote the book for me.  Her explanation of how to eat foods, what foods to avoid and food's affect on our bodies really got me thinking and so I began her diet plan.  She gives a complete grocery list (which I do not want to even begin to tell you how much I spent) and two weeks of meals and snack recipes.  I followed it to a T and began to loose weight.  The food prep was exhausting though!  I had a baby, was working full time, Munchkie's Daddy was in school and just could not keep up with preparing all of the meals.  I began to plateau and it was just enough to cause frustration that resulted in me straying from her meal plan.  Again, I kept all of her information in my head and continued to try to follow her basic plan- whole grains at breakfast, lunch and snack, lean meats, lots of veggies with some fruits, no carbs after 4pm and nothing to eat after 9pm.  However, I frequently gave into cravings and snacked throughout the evening while in times of stress.
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Last fall, I read about a juice detox, as did Munchkie's Daddy and so we began it together.  During the two week detox, the side effects were pretty crazy at first- blurred vision, difficulty concentrating, dizziness, cravings, shakiness, but after the the first several days, I began to feel pretty good.  I wasn't hungry, I had energy, and I just overall felt pretty well. Then I started introducing foods back into my diet.  I ate mostly fruits, vegetables with black beans or hummus for a while and continued to loose weight and feel pretty good.  Then as I introduced other foods back in, I began to have cravings again.  Munchkie's daddy just doesn't understand these cravings and would always roll his eyes at me.  It is like an addiction, I would want something like chocolate cake and it was all that I could think about.  I would salivate just thinking about chocolate cake and would not stop until I had some. I tried to do this detox several more times, knowing how good I felt at the end of it, but every time I tried, I seriously could not get the juice down.  I would remember how I had to literally gag it down the first time around and could even suck the juice up a straw before I was gagging into the sink.
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This summer I heard about and read a book by Tim Ferriss "The 4-Hour Diet."  After reading the almost six hundred of pages full of research and crazy tests that he did on himself- including implanting a blood glucometer and checking his blood sugar with finger sticks several times a day to verify accuracy I tried out his eating plan.  I really liked that his plan included six days of strict eating plans and then on the seventh day, it's a free day.  His plan includes eating vegetables, beans and lean proteins at every meal.  No dairy, fruit or carbohydrates of any kind during these six days.  Now, I live on dairy, fruit and carbs.  This was extremely difficult to do, but as he said, keep track of what you are craving and eat it on the seventh day.  Each week it would take several days to go through "withdrawal" and dealing with the intense cravings that consumed my thinking and by the end of the week I would finally be getting over it.  I would start feeling great, having more energy, feeling full, eating less, etc.  Then the seventh day would come and I would eat all of those things that I had been thinking about all week- yogurt, chocolate, fruit, bread, cake, etc.  When the next week began, I would go through all of those withdrawal symptoms again and sometimes, when I was feeling weak, I just couldn't fight them.  With the stress of all the changes in our lives, all it took was a bad day at work to send me straight to my friends Ben and Jerry.

For a while I had been telling Munchkie's Daddy that so many people talk about how much better they felt after going gluten free.  I really wanted to try it out and he was extremely resistant.  See, when I am on my latest diet, he gets sucked in, somewhat unwillingly.  These diets were only the major ones that influenced me the most, but I also tried several other ones inbetween.  I knew that when I eliminated carbohydrates I felt better, it's just really hard.  I read up on gluten sensitivity and while I do not think that I have anything remotely close to celiac disease, I know that my body does better without something- and perhaps it's gluten.  So this led me to decide to try gluten free out.  One of the blogs that I read frequently, Deliciously Organic, recently posted about reading the book "Wheat Belly" by William Davis and so today when I had a little bit of free time I bought the book and sat in Barnes and Noble reading.

I was immediately drawn into this book.  Dr. Davis is a cardiologist in Milwaukee and came upon his term "wheat belly" after he couldn't figure out why he was overweight while running everyday and eating a diet with healthy whole grains.  He says that this kind of belly has been called a beer belly because only big beer drinkers had them.  But what is beer made of?  Grains- wheat, barley.  So he terms it a "wheat belly" because it wasn't the beer causing the belly, it was the wheat intake and so now people of all ages and backgrounds have beer bellies.  While I'm only partway through the book so far, it makes complete sense why I felt so much better on the 4-Hour Diet, but then couldn't handle the cravings at the start of each week.  It also explains why after giving up sweets each Lenton season I have decreased urges to eat sweets, but as soon as my first bite on Easter, all of the cravings are back.  Or why after a sugary carb heavy breakfast I feel lethargic and sick to my stomach for a while, then a couple hours later, am starving.  He explains (in a very scientific and a little over my head way) how the wheat of today is nothing like the wheat of even 60 years ago.  He explains exactly how wheat has been genetically modified- both in nature and by humans to become something almost unrecognizable.  Here are a few excerpts from his book that really hit me.
"Flip through your parents' or grandparents' family albums and you're likely to be struck by how thin everyone looks.  The women probably wore size-four dresses and the men sported 32-inch waists. Overweight was something measured only by a few pounds; obesity rare.......The women of that world didn't exercise much at all. (It was considered unseemly, after all, like having impure thoughts at church.) How many times did you see your mom put on her jogging shoes to go out for a three-mile run?  Exercise for my mother was vacuuming the stairs......And yet, we're getting fatter and fatter every year." (page ix)
"Many overweight people, in fact, are quite health conscious.  Ask anyone tipping the scales over 250 pounds: What do you think happened to allow such incredibly weight gain?  You may be surprised at how many do not say 'I drink Big Gulps, eat Pop Tarts, and watch TV all day.'  Most will say something like 'I don't get it. I exercise five days a week.  I've cut my fat and increased my healthy whole grains.  Yet I can't seem to stop gaining weight!'" (page 5)
"An interesting fact: Whole wheat bread (glycemic index 72) increased blood sugar as much as or more than table sugar, or sucrose (glycemic index 59), (Glucose increased blood sugar to 100, hence a glycemic index of 100.)" (pages 8-9)
"I still get shivers when a well-dressed, suburban soccer mom desperately confesses to me, 'Bread is my crack.  I just can't give it up!' Wheat can dictate food choices, calorie consumption, timing of meals and snacks.  It can influence behavior and mood.  It can even come to dominate thoughts." (page 44)
"In lab animals, administration of naloxone blocks the binding of wheat exorphins to the morphine receptor of brain cells.  Yes, opiate-blocking naloxone prevents the binding of wheat-derived exorphins to the brain.  The very same drug that turns off the heroine in a drug-abusing addict also blocks the effects of wheat exorphins." (page 49) He spends the paragraphs before this explaining that it was found that wheat acts in our brain the same way that morphine would, creating a "runner's high."
"What happens if normal humans are given opiate-blocking drugs? In a study conducted at the Psychiatric Institute of the University of South Carolina, wheat consuming participants given naloxone consumed 33 percent fewer calories at lunch and 23 percent fewer calories at dinner (a total of approximately 400 calories less over the two meals) than participants given a placebo.  At the University of Michigan, binge eaters were confined to a room filled with food for one hour. Participants consumed 28 percent less wheat crackers, bread sticks, and pretzels with administration of naloxone. In other words, block the euphoric reward of wheat and calorie intake goes down, since wheat no longer generates the favorable feelings that encourage repetitive consumption." (pages 50-51)

I am looking forward to finishing this book and seeing what his suggestions are.  The more I read gluten free blogs I see that those who have eliminated gluten don't really even want baked goods that much anymore because they just don't appeal to them.  They are able to create all kinds of gluten free goodies now with the help of other flours, but the desire to eat breads or sweets just isn't there.  I think that an occasional piece of cake made from alternate flours or rice flour crackers would help me to not feel deprived, but at the same time, not lead to the cravings that I have such a difficult time fighting.

Does anyone have any input here?  I would love to hear what others think.


New Home: Financial Makeover

With our recent move we've decided to do a huge overhaul on our finances.  Munchkie's Daddy is starting his doctorate program and is receiving a living stipend for the first time, small as it may be, and it's a huge help.  We have watched our friends all buy houses, and it kills me (and Munchkie's Daddy too I think) to continue throwing money away on rent.  We are currently living in this ridiculously tiny apartment so that we can save money on rent since this area is unbelievably expensive.  We both read Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey and are going to begin to aggressively attacking our debt.  Hopefully at the end of Munchkie's Daddy's five year stent, we're going to be ahead a little bit and will be able to buy a roof over our heads instead of giving that money to someone else.

My good friend over at Our Tiny House recently posted about her family's plan to be frugal.  She stays at home with her super cute little girl and shares how they make it work on one income. 

Our Tiny House- My Frugal Family

I have always admired her thriftiness and creativity.  She's amazing at finding hidden treasures at garage sales and thrift stores, getting great deals everywhere she goes.  That combined with her organization and financial structure make her the epitome of frugal.  For example, her she talks about disciplined they are "First off, I keep track of every penny we spend, where it goes, what it was spent on. This way, at the end of the month, we can see where we went right, where we went wrong, and what we have."  She also gives an example of the things that she and her mother have found thrifting and garage saleing and it's incredible!  Click on that link above and read her plan, and I highly recommend Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover.


New Home: My New Neighborhood

I've been trying to explore a little bit of the area.  I haven't been too great at getting out, but I love the area that we are living in.  We are just outside the city enough to feel more like a neighborhood.  I feel very safe and it's great to be able to walk to dinner, ride our bikes to the subway station or play out in the yard with the neighbor girl.  We have been to the farmer's market both Saturdays that we have been here and the fresh produce selection is great.  Yesterday they had music for the kids and the week before a craft table set up for kids.  This week, we saw a little guy that Munchkie goes to daycare with and his mom, we stopped to chat and found out that they are kind of on the same path we are and live just a few streets away from us.  I was then getting a cup of coffee at a coffee shop on a bike (yes, on a bike) and made a comment to a woman standing next to me.  Next thing I know, we found a connection via a mom website we both belong to and they welcomed us to the area. 

Tonight we went to a church that we have been looking forward to attending and we really enjoyed it.  We met several families around our age and a teacher said to me that there was another new couple she had just met that was living in the same neighborhood we were. It turns out that this couple lives on our street just a couple blocks away.  To top that, he graduated the same master's program that Munchkie's Daddy did (and the same year) and they have a mutual friend.  They moved here at the beginning of the summer (from the same town we just moved from) and told us such great tips about the area.  Where to buy meat, which little store has the best produce, etc.  It feels wonderful to make connections and even to find tips about the area.  I am beginning to believe that this truly was a good move for us and I hope to continue to explore and find great things in our area. 

The transition to this new area is such a different transition than the previous one we made three years ago.  The culture shock that we experienced moving from the Midwest to the Northeast was something we didn't expect.  I have been bracing myself for months to be prepared for another culture shock, but instead of have been shocked by how friendly and helpful everyone we have encountered has been.  We have already met more people in the couple weeks we have lived here than we did in months of our previous move.  Previously every single relationship that I had was a result of my work, and here I haven't even started working and already have made connections.  This is amazing to me. 

The downside to living in this area I have found is that Target is not very convenient to get to and Walmart is a ridiculous drive.  While this is kind of devastating, it will probably be good for our bank account.  Not making frequent trips to these stores will help me realize what's really important.  I won't be buying unnecessary things that catch my eye and maybe I can even spend the wasted time wandering the aisles being more productive in my life or even doing something like riding my bike to improve my physical fitness, or lack thereof.

Here is a little view of my new neighborhood.

The main street that we live off of has a beautiful view of the city.
The farmer's market on the town green. Plenty of tents set up with everything from fresh pastries to every kind of tomato possible to stone ground chocolates made right here.
Making a maraca at the kid's craft table with Munchkie's Mimi.
All of the amazing things we purchased at the farmer's market.  Fresh produce that we enjoyed every bite of.  Just look at the variety of tomatoes!
This restaurant caught my eye the first time we came through the area.  It has open windows, small tables and an interesting menu.  We could hardly pull Munchkie away from the window to eat her food, she loved feeling the wind blowing on her face as she watched the cars go by.  My lemon and ricotta cheese pancakes were wonderful and Munchkie had fresh squeezed orange juice for the first time.  She was so confused, she would take a drink and say "this an orange mommy?" and I would say, "yes, it's orange juice."  She was say ok and take another sip, then again say "this is an orange."  She didn't realize that orange juice was actually supposed to taste just like an orange.
We found this indoor playground when we went to check out the Habitat for Humanity Restore.  Another mom said that it was really good for those days when the kids can't play outside.  A big open space with lots of things for the kids to play with, and free wifi for the parents.
We saw these birds all lined up on the roof of the house next door, just hanging out.
We went to a restaurant down the road from us that specialized in southern cooking.  Munchkie's menu/coloring page said "Selections For Future World Leaders, Humanitarians and Rock N Rollers"

This is our church, it starts in the evening, which is perfect for us since we aren't morning people.  Tonight they had a bbq afterwords and we were able to meet quite a few people in the church. 
 This beautiful pond in a public garden is right in the middle of the city.
 I love this contrast, beautiful green grass, with a carousel and a park, surrounded by skyscrapers.


New Home: Living Room/Dining Room/Study

Yes, this is quite the combo room.  One of the reasons why it is the last rooms to be posted.  There were several projects that I had planned and I did finish some of them, enough to post pics at least.  Here are the before and afters.


 Welcome to my living room.  Taken from the doorway.  The gray rug was the inspiration for the room.
 From the corner that the TV is in.
 From the couch.
From the dining room area.
 This is our bookshelf/TV stand.  I saw a picture on Pinterest where they used glass jars as picture frames and I loved it.
 I saved glass jars for a while until I had different sizes and shapes, then I took my favorite pictures and had them printed in black and white.
 I planned on using more mirrors to help the room appear larger, but for now, these are the mirrors that I have.  This is also my attempt at a arrangement with flowers and sticks.
 Our couch with our decorative wall.  We found this curtain at Ikea and then today we bought molding at Lowe's, spray painted it black and cut it to form a frame around the curtain. 
 This was something that my aunt gave us shortly after Munchkie was born and I love it.
 Welcome to my "Dining Room."  The table was a coffee table that we cut the legs off of.  We bought new legs for a few dollars and spray painted them black.  I found one chair for $4.99 at Habitat for Humanity's Restore and painted that black.  For now Munchkie's Daddy and I are using stools while we look for cheap, sturdy and perfect for us chairs to complete our set.
 I saw a while back this super cute idea where someone used old lightbulbs, hung them and put flowers inside of them.  I didn't have any lightbulbs, but I did have old spice jars.  So I decided to use those.  I put a couple faux rose petals in each one and then found some twigs outside.
 Welcome to Chris's "study."  I found two bifold doors, again at Habitat for Humanity's Restore, spray painted them gray today and Munchkie's Daddy hinged them together.  I think that we need one more set of doors to fully cover his desk so that I don't have to see the piles of books.
There's enough room for him, although he doesn't necessarily agree.  He calls it his dungeon.  

So there is our multipurpose room.  I still have several projects that I hope to complete in the near future, but it is definitely livable.  Although this room has a lot going on in it, I still feel like there is plenty of room and we feel good spending time in it.  If you notice, one thing that is not present in this room- toys.  We have a new rule, toys stay in your room.  I really like this rule.


New Home: Our Bedroom

I had a much better day today.  I was able to get a couple projects completed and our bedroom almost completely together.  Since it wasn't raining I was able to pick Munchkie up from childcare today on my bike and I think that being productive and getting out has helped tremendously.  I reminded myself that I have all of next week and spent some time online searching for activities that are going on next week and found a "Little Bookworms" activity at a local animal shelter.  They read a book to young kids and bring out an animal for the kids to see, pet, etc.  I am going to keep Munchkie home on Wednesday so we can do fun things like that.

So anyway, here is our bedroom before and after.


Nightstand/Filing Cabinet Before
Nightstand/Filing Cabinet After
My first Modge Podge experience, with homemade Modge Podge from Pinterest.  Would have been better had I not ripped the paper while trying to smooth out the air bubbles.  I need to put another piece of paper over the top blue part.


 Slanted ceilings pose a little bit of a challenge.
 From the doorway
 Left door is to the hallway and right is the closet.

 Our new duvet cover that I love.  Naturally it was the first of hundreds that I looked at.  I had decided against it at first because it was a comforter in the store, but when I looked online they had it in a duvet cover (online only of course) and I was so mad at myself.  If only I would have looked online I could have known.  But then now I know that I really do like this one best.
 I made this using two ideas from Pinterest.  White canvas with hot glue gun to write and then painted over it all with white acrylic paint.  "You have my whole HEART for my whole LIFE."
 Since storage is limited, we have our bed on risers so accommodate storage tubs underneath.  A lot of our off season clothes are in those tubs, as well as scrubs for me, extra sheets and other things that we don't use every day.
 This is a writing desk that my aunt and uncle gave to us.  This is one of my favorite parts to the room.  Eventually the TV that is now in the living room with go in place of the picture.
 Oh yes, I have made this a "getting ready" center.  I used a mirror from Ikea and stuck that to the underside of the lid.  Then Munchkie's Daddy put a hinge on it to keep it open and I have my makeup and hair things inside so that I can sit and get ready at this desk.
 This is a cold air clothes dryer.  I received it for Christmas a few years back and we never ended up setting it up anyway at our previous home.  I really like it, you can dry your sweaters, pants, etc flat so that they don't get misshapen or shrink.  I'm glad to have found a place for it so that we can begin to use it again.
 Our laundry organization.  I find that if our clothes are presorted, it takes a lot of work out of the whole laundry cycle.  Taking the extra second, literally a second, to toss your dirty clothes into the correct hamper saves so much time sorting them before doing loads of laundry.
This is our not-so-organized closet.  I haven't really found the best way to handle our joint closet adventure yet. Right now things are still just shoved up on the shelves and piled on the floor.

So there you go.  Another room down in our new home.  We can sleep in peace tonight.  At least we can sleep in slight organization.