Saturday, February 27, 2016

My Very First Stitch Fix Box

As most of my family can attest, I am a bit fashion challenged--being in the height of fashion has never been a need of mine, and it has only been in the last 2-3 years that I have been willing to look at my clothes and say, "Hmmm.  I really don't want to look like a frump.  Maybe I should update my wardrobe."  Because of this, I tend to wait to go shopping for clothes until I can go with at least one or two of my sisters, since I really can't be trusted to always choose things that both look good on me and aren't either 20 years too old or 20 years too young, style-wise.

Me in front of the blue windows at the Art Institut in Chicago
When I dress myself--This particular shirt will likely go in the donate bin
(It is also last Summer before I started losing weight and eliminating dairy)
This has created a bit of a conundrum for me, since I'm in the process of losing weight, and some of the clothes that I know look good on me are now not hanging right...and this is after only 10 lbs lost.  In my body's defense, some of it is probably less bloating due to no more dairy in my diet, but it is still sad when one of your favorite shirts no longer looks very good.  Since I live something like 12 hours away from the nearest relative, this means that, when I DO go shopping, I tend to take pictures and then text them to one or more sisters for advice.  I always feel a little worried that they get tired of the, "which one of these outfits look better?" texts.  So, when I talked to a colleague and heard about Stitch Fix, it seemed like a good compromise....I get help with clothes that look good on me, and I don't have to pester my siblings to get it.  I decided that I would reward myself with a StitchFix box for every 10 lbs that I lose.  I got my first box in the mail today, and amazingly, I feel like the stylist nailed what I like and what looks good on me!

They even help you to accessorize. Such a blessing for the accessory challenged like me.

The way that StitchFix works is that you pay a $20 stylist fee, and then they send you 5 pieces of clothing/accessories.  If you keep all 5 pieces, you get 25% off of the cost of the clothes, and they also credit you for the stylist fee toward the cost of the clothes.  Unfortunately, if you don't keep all 5, there is no discount, but you still get the $20 stylist fee to put toward your purchase.  I was pretty impressed with this first box, and if all of the items had fit, I would have kept the whole box.  Because I'm not getting that wonderful discount, I ended up returning 2 of the five items, so that I would pay the same as if I had kept all 5 items.
The dress that doesn't fit, and the infinity scarf beside it.  I was so very sad when this dress wouldn't zip up! I loved the burgundy and the pattern of the scarf, but without the dress, I'm not sure that I have anything I could wear it with. Most of my shirts are navy and purple!

I do have to say that I kind of expected the cost of each individual item to be less expensive--the cost is more along the lines of Kohls  or JC Penny's when it is full price, than Target.  I also hate that 2 of the 3 items I am keeping is hand-wash only.  One of them, a cardigan, won't be washed very often because it is outer wear, but I actually almost returned the shirt because it is hand wash only.  I love my washer, and am always looking for ways to make my life easier. I may see if I can wash it in the delicate cycle inside out, since the front of the shirt is all lace, and I don't want it to get snagged.

A ubiquitous dog picture, just because she is much cuter!
Sassy and the other dogs were very curious as I tried everything on, I suspect because the smell of the dyes before any of the items are washed are interesting to their sensitive noses.

So, I have one new outfit from the box, and I will definitely be doing this again.  It isn't really economizing on clothing, but if they last a decent amount of time, I'm willing to pay a little more for the items.  I definitely won't be going to a monthly cycle, though.  I can't justify that much money on clothing each month!

The outfit without the cardigan.  I really like the way these jeans fit! 

 Now, I just need to do the work and lose the next 10 lbs.  Once that happens, I can see how Tiffany (my stylist for this box), and the rest of the Stitch Fix team do next time.
And with the Cardigan. Amazingly, Ginger was cooperating for the picture...A real rarity!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Plateaus (PHFR#9)

I have been hovering at around 181 lbs. of late.  I know that some of it is that I've been eating outside my house more, which means I have less control over what I'm eating.  I also know that some of it has been that I've found several REALLY good recipes for GAPS friendly desserts, and I've been going a bit overboard with them.  (Chocolate mousse is made with Avocado, so it's a healthy breakfast, right?!?!?).  I actually made another batch this past weekend, and ended up with like 15 servings--this time around ended up with more a consistency of pudding, though. I ran out of room in my food processor to add all of the cocoa powder that the recipe called for--a triple recipe is a little much, but I didn't want to have to throw out avocados. Well, that, and I kind of added about a 1/3 more coconut milk than the recipe called for.  It still tastes good, and that is what matters.

One thing that this diet is forcing me to do is try out new recipes, and that makes me


I made some almond flour biscuits this weekend, too.

I was too busy working on my chocolate mousse to get these out before they got a little brown, but it is nice to have some sort of bread-type food available.  The biscuits are actually a bit sweet for my taste--I've always been a savory bread type of girl, and back when I could eat gluten, I would routinely half the amount of sugar asked for in a recipe.  I will likely do that the next time I make these, or maybe even eliminate it completely, since there is no yeast that needs feeding in these.  I also subbed apple cider vinegar for the lemon. 

Sunday was actually a huge baking day for me.  I also made some Cauliflower tortillas.  Based on what people said, and the amount of cauliflower I had (2 heads), I kind of modified this as well--it is somewhere between the above recipe and this one.  So, I used 6 eggs for the 2 heads, and added some Italian spices: garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, and basil.  Next time I do this, I may try a mexican twist: cumin and cilantro, maybe.  Then I can make some tacos with it.

I brought the torillas for lunch. I plan to eat them with leftover spaghetti sauce, mostly because I need to find another subsitute for pasta than spaghetti squash.
I also made some chia seed pudding, in spite of the fact that I'm allergic to raw apples.  I just cooked the apples with the cinnamon and the coconut milk from the recipe, then mixed in the chia seeds, a little bit of honey (maybe a tablespoon for the whole batch), and some vanilla (1 tsp.).  I'm thinking that this would be good without the apples, or maybe with cooked pears instead.  I plan to do some experimenting to see what else tastes good.  

One serving of the chia seed pudding.  Next time, I peel the apples before cooking them.
On a side note, buying these little 4 ounce jars had to have been the best investment I've ever made. They make a perfect serving of sweet stuff.  They also make a perfect serving of fermented veggies for lunch at work.  

And, I especially bought some parsnips the last time I was at the store in order to try this recipe for parsnip fries.  I've been making fries out of green beans by baking them until crispy, but thought this might be a nice change.  I just haven't gotten around to it yet.  Maybe tomorrow as a celebration for the end of the week.


Lest you think that all I can think about is food, I have to share what happened this weekend when I turned on the sprinkler in my back yard for the first time ever.  

Take that, water spray!

I got you now!

Hey, get back here!!!
 Yep, Sassy decided that she needed to attack the water from the sprinkler. And, after she got tired, she would rest a bit and then go back and play some more.  I don't think I've ever seen a dog get so excited about a water sprinkler.

Ironically, it started raining the next day, so I could have dispensed from watering to begin with, but seeing how much Sassy loved the sprinkler was worth it.

My dogs are definitely spoiled: behold, their very own staircase.

I was getting concerned because Sassy is just short enough that she can't actually make it on my bed half the time she tries.  I cringe every time she tries and fails, because I'm worried that she will break or sprain a leg at some point.  Even so, I'd gotten a bit sick of picking her up every time she wants up at night (at ~25 lbs, she is also getting a bit heavy to lift when I'm already on the bed).  With my bed reaching waist height on me, it IS a pretty tall bed.  Now, Sassy just heads up the stairs when she wants to get on.  My back thanks her!!!


So, I worked on two other projects this past weekend--getting some of the worst of the stains from the wood floors, and building a compost bin.

Before using goof-off in the entry-way

After.  I'm pretty impressed with the stuff, and will be buying more.
I just did a small part of the floor as a test, but really like how it got the old carpet glue up. I imagine it would get more of the paint up, if I were to scrub hard enough, too.  When I rent a sander and take off the old finishing later this month (I'm hoping to do so during spring break), it will mean having to use less sandpaper, since it won't be gummed up by the old glue.

What will become my compost bin...Now all I have to do is rake my front yard to fill it!
The bin isn't as pretty as I'd like, but it should be functional, and it will keep the dogs out of the compost, I hope.  I will post what it looks like once full. And, the actual compost will be nice to put around my 2 trees that survived to this point from November.  Unfortunately, Sassy dug up and tore up one of the 3 trees--the hazard of having over-active puppies!


One of the things I love about living in central Texas is the variety of wildlife that isn't really around in the desert, where I have lived most of my life.  I have seen Blue Birds and Cardinals hanging out in the trees surrounding my property.  I've even thought about putting out a bird feeder, but have hesitated because of my fur-babies.  This is why:

I was able to help this little guy get out of the yard, but I'm not sure if I did so in time to save his life
This guy was on the ground on the inside of my back-yard fence, obviously injured.  Trying to keep the dogs away from him was virtually impossible--3 of our 4 dogs have at least a little bit of hunting or herding dog in them.  I was able to help him (her?) flutter over the fence away from the digdogs, and then I put out some sunflower seeds near him, but he had disappeared when I checked for him a couple of hours later.

While I really like my coloring picture a day calendar, I'm finding that leaving it at my office was maybe not the best idea I've ever had.  Because I have been trying to do all of my grading while at work instead of bringing it home, I'm finding that I have a whole lot less down time than I thought I would have.  Which means I've got a lot of pictures I really want to color laying around my office.
On the left, pictures I really like. On the right, pictures that don't do a whole lot for me, with Padre Pio looking over all of it.

If I can't color them myself, at least I can share the wealth.
So, I hit on a way to help keep my desk from getting too cluttered by pictures to color.  I'm letting students grab them to color themselves.  I wish I could color all of them, but it just isn't possible with all the other things I have to do.  

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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Home Improvements for beginners (PHFR #8)

One of the things that I've started working on are some of the small projects that I've been wanting to do since I moved in, but have not taken the time to do.  Some of them are just time consuming, and some of them require both time and a bit of money.  So, I am using a portion of my tax return to begin knocking out a few of these.  It is kind of exciting to see how things are working out.  :-)


Are you sure that there is room for you, mom?
I'm currently dog-sitting for my niece, and that means that I'm responsible for 4 rather than 2 dogs.  They get along really well, but it makes for a kind of crowded bed.  Most nights, one of the dogs decides that it is too crowded and sleeps in his/her own bed. I just find it a pretty sight that they like to sleep together.

My parish's Adoration Chapel
One of the things I have been doing since I moved here has been to commit to a slot for Adoration weekly.  It means planning my sleep time before and after in order to get enough sleep, but I find it totally worth it.  I love being able to spend time with Jesus in the middle of the night, and going is the highlight of my week.  

Even so, occasionally the person after me doesn't show up, and I end up losing 2 rather than one hour of sleep.  While I figure that I probably need the extra prayer time when it happens, one thing I have noticed is that my weight fluctuates more based on the amount of sleep I get than because of any other factor (at least as far as I can tell)--on nights that I get less than 7 hours of sleep, I can almost guarantee that my weight will be higher by a pound or more.  Weighing yourself daily leads to such interesting correlations!

Another side-effect that I'm noticing about getting less sleep is that I tend to have less will-power on those days when I have less sleep the night before.  It is amazing how much a lack of sleep effects me.

My desk in it's new home
I love that I now have a place to keep my desk where I can keep my sewing machine out for when I need it. Even though my desk has all of my writing stuff, I never use it to actually write at, so turning it into a sewing area is perfect. I've been putting my machine back in its original box whenever I'm not using it, but I'm really wanting to spend more time quilting this year. Having my machine out will hopefully motivate me to do more quilting--I really need to make bedspreads for both this room and my room.  I should probably think about upgrading to a better machine eventually, but this basic model will probably last me for a year or two....It probably isn't worth it to service the machine again more than once or twice, though.

Mysti-girl enjoying the new place for the bed and the sunlight from the window.
Without a roommate, I now have a spare bedroom, which is really nice.


The room from the back corner--don't mind the two skirts that are drying on the door.
Just as I thought it would, the love-seat works perfectly in this room.  Now, all I have to do is find something to put on the walls.  For sure, I need a Crucifix, but I'm not sure what else yet.  It will probably depend on what the eventual quilt for this room will look like.  

Last Saturday, I spent the whole day tearing out the carpet from this room.  As I suspected, there is a really nice, if badly stained, hard wood floor underneath. Removing the carpet wasn't actually the part that took so long--it was removing the tack board around the edges.  I spent all day using my hammer and a chisel to pry them up, and I'm pretty proud of my work!

Depending on whether I try to refinish it myself or if I get it professionally done, it is probably not going to happen until Summer sometime to resurface it.  I found a product called "Goof Off," though, and I'm going to see if I can get some of the worst stains out rather than having to sand all of them off. Part of me is really leaning toward doing the work myself, since I can do the floors one room at a time and finish it for about 1/10 of the price.  

The things holding me back are:
  1.  Can I sand the floors evenly?
  2. Will it look good when I'm done?
I'm seriously thinking about making the spare bedroom a test bed--if I can make it look good, then I know that I can do my bedroom and the living room, no problem.  If I can't then it isn't that much money wasted, and I can bring in a professional.  

Most of the room

The entryway.
 Another of my projects has been to get some shelves made for a built-in bookcase in my kitchen so that I can use it as a spice rack.  Earlier this week while I as at lowe's I found some really pretty wood, and had them cut the wood into the size I needed.  I had to check to see if it would work, so as soon as I got home, I put the shelves up, even though they aren't finished or sanded yet. The end result makes me very happy!
I have now switched the contents on the bottom and top shelves--having non-food items seemed safer on the shelf the dogs can reach.


This is what I saw when I woke up this morning.  At first, I thought, "Aaww, how cute!" Then Sassy stretched a little, and it was like she was trying to push Bubba put of the way. Now I'm just not sure.
I'm not sure whether they are cuddling, or if Sassy is trying to take up Bubba's space on the bed.

While I was pounding away on the floors, the animals pretty much avoided the noise like the plague. However, as soon as I was done and started putting the furniture in place, they became very curious. I'm not sure they knew what to make of this room without the yucky, stained carpet.
Mom, is it ok to get on the floor now? Are the "bang-bangs" done???
 This coming weekend means finishing the shelves for the spice rack, painting the patch on the wall in the Bathroom (I had it fixed right before Christmas, and just haven't gotten around to painting it--it is partially hidden by the toilet, so I just don't think of it that often), and trying the Goof-Off on the stains in the spare bedroom.  I never realized how much work owning a house can be!
My to-do list for this weekend


In the process of moving my desk, I had to clear it off.  The smart thing to do would have been to take all of the stuff that had been on my desk and put it where they belonged. What did I do instead? Move it to the top of my dresser. In my defense, I was really tired after close to seven hours of tearing up tack-board...
Why clean when you can just move the stack somewhere else???

Battle Scars--proof that you survived!
And, while I was working on the Tack-board, I ended up somehow (I'm still not sure how) getting a nail stuck between my finger and the fingernail.  The nail actually ended up poking through the fingernail about midway.  It hurt like a booger, but really didn't bleed that much.  Now, I have a pretty bruise underneath my nail, even though it doesn't really hurt anymore.  I keep forgetting to call my Dr. and schedule a tetanus shot, but will try to do so later today.

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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Sandal Weather!!! (PHFR#7)


Part of the fun of living in Texas is that it means sandal weather tends to come early.  The days have been nice enough these last few days that I've worn my sandals a couple of days in a row.  Once it is sandal weather, I tend to wear sandals non-stop until it is no longer sandal weather, so this makes me incredibly happy.

I'm not sure they match my outfit, but I love being able to wear sandals!!! It is probably time for me to paint the toe-nails so they aren't naked.
Another pleasant surprise this week was that some flowers started blooming in front of my house.  I didn't even know that the bulbs were there, so when they started sprouting and blooming, it was a huge surprise.  My first impulse is to say that these are daffodils, but the petals seem thicker than what I envision for daffodils.  If you know what kind of flower it is, telling me would be great.

I'm a "live and let live" gardener, so the fact that these showed up without me doing anything makes me incredibly happy!
One of the hardest things about being on the GAPS diet and also being dairy free is that finding things to eat when sweet cravings hit are difficult.  I've been mostly good (I will admit to one last Breve Latte from Starbucks on Monday--my nod to the coming of Lent), although the siren song of ice cream has been rather loud of late. I'm amazed that I have been able to ignore it's pull to date, but I've also been on the lookout for some sort of substitute. This is why I was so incredibly happy when I found this recipe, as it seems to fulfill my craving for creamy/cold.  The only tweaks were to use honey rather than maple syrup and substituting unsweetened bakers chocolate for the dark chocolate mentioned. This made it fully GAPS legal, but you can't cut the honey in half--you need to make a one to one substitution on the sweetener.

I doubled the recipe and used my food processor to mix it all together (why did I resist getting such a wonderful invention for so long, again???).  It really is incredibly dark and rich for a chocolate mousse--I could probably eat about 1/2 of one of the 4 oz. servings I dished out, and still take care of my cravings. I may see if I can make it a little less chocolatey, the next time I make it, although part of the reason for all the chocolate is to mask the taste of the avocado--it might not be possible. 

Supposedly, the recipe makes 8 servings when doubled--I got 10  4-oz. jars worth.

Who needs a cookbook when you have the internet?

MMMM, Good.  I've found it is best when I cut the chocolate with berries or other fruit. Because it has Avocado, it makes for a healthy breakfast, right? ;-)


So, I used part of my tax return to replace my dishwasher.  While my old one was standard size, and my new one was too, it ended up being about 1/8 of an inch too tall for the cabinet space.  
No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't make it fit...
 After quite a bit of hemming and hawing, I realized that most of the issue was the lip on the countertop made by the tile facing.  A trip to Lowes for a chisel, and about 30 minutes later, I was able to fit it into the space just fine.  I kept the tiles, in case I can figure out a way to cut them without breaking them to pieces.  Otherwise, I will probably be replacing my counter-tops sooner rather than later.  I'd really like to get either granite, quartz, or solid surface counter-tops, but don't know if they come in lighter colors that I'd like.  I really don't want dark counters, as it will suck all of the light out of the area.  I've thought some about getting butcher block counters as well, but I'm probably too clumsy for them to stay nice looking.
The finished product. Not pretty, but functional.  I need to figure out a way to make this gap in the tile facing less jarring until I can replace the counters.
I also have to say that I love my new dishwasher.  It is so quiet that you can hardly tell that it is running!  This is such a change, since my old dishwasher made so much noise that you couldn't have a decent conversation anywhere near it.

 Now that it is sandal weather, I'm probably going to transition to more fizzy water and less tea, although it will still be my go-to drink first thing in the morning.  I'm not sure it is normal to have a whole desk drawer dedicated to various types of tea...
This is probably a sign that I should eventually make giving up tea a Lenten discipline...
And, it is very obvious that the main part of the semester has started...My desk is a mess, and it is beginning to annoy me.  I suspect that I will be using part of Friday afternoon to put it to rights so that I can begin using it to its best advantage again.  
Snoopy and purple--this has quickly become my favorite mug, and it makes grading much more enjoyable!
In the mean time, I think I will make myself another cup of tea. :-)

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Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Scourge of the Saggy Butt (PHFR #6)


I've probably added this before, but I just love this picture of me with my sister.  It is such a joy to have a great family!


So, I was finally healthy enough to go back to Choir. While this is an older picture, the fact that we have choir practice in the choir loft (AND that we sing from there) is one of my favorite parts about being in it.  In the spring and fall, choir starts right around dusk, and that is when I shot this picture.  Every time I miss a few weeks, I'm reminded of how much I love singing when I return.  It is pure joy to be able have songs stuck in your head the rest of the evening.

My view from the choir loft.


So, I'm about 1/3 of the way through finishing a quilt for my niece, and it stays on the couch so that I can work on it while I'm watching TV.  Our dogs have decided that it is one of the most comfortable places to sleep, so they take turns on it...

My niece complains that she is the only one who hasn't used her quilt.
At work, my students have been tasked with making Memes to help my future students...This is one of my favorites.


I was able to find a couch set for a steal, and all of us (including the dogs) loves them.  I still need to figure out how to cover/re-upholster them, but they work for now. Sassy actually likes the foot stool best, but she can be found on any of them regularly. In fact, her favorite thing to do when she doesn't want to go out is to jump on the couch and show me her belly.

How is it that I ended up with a white dog who loves to dig???

Nope. No room for you, mom!
In other news, I'm going to have to retire my skinny jeans.  I've lost just enough weight that the back of my jeans won't stay put.  After about 10 minutes, the butt part of my jeans are sagging about 6 inches underneath my actual butt--I rutch them, but they won't stay put.  As I walked back to my car after choir, I was thinking that the name "The scourge of the saggy butts" would make a neat name for a grunge band.  

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