Mental Dumbbells – November Edition

Since this month was so focused on finishing NaNoWriMo, I didn’t set the bar very high in the reading category. However, I ended up reading much more than I expected. There were a few days this month that were miserable at work and reading let me mentally get away a bit. Isn’t it fun how a good book can just transport you to another reality? Now that I’m out of school, I love reading again. This month I finished 4 books, all of which were purchased on clearance at the now defunct Borders. I miss Borders.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

I’m a little torn about my feelings on this book. The main premise is a young boy, son of a zookeeper, travelling with his family overseas with many of the Zoo’s animals. The ship sinks and you follow their struggle to survive.

The survival story was beautifully told and I honestly loved the story about the boy and the tiger. However, it was a really, REALLY tough read. Simply put, animals died (some of them in a very gruesome manner) and I cried A LOT. It’s not a feel good summer read if you catch my drift. It was a heavy, powerful story that left me emotionally drained. In the end I’m not sure I believe the post it, I wasn’t too happy. I was moved by the story, especially the end, in a thought-provoking and intrigued kind of way.

Overall I probably wouldn’t recommend it to many people because of the heavy story line. You need to be in the right frame of mind to read this book. The story was beautiful, but it was difficult and emotionally draining to finish.

Everything else this month was a little lighter since Life of Pi was so tough.

November Reads

Tales from the Yoga Studio by Rain Mitchell

This is the kind of book you pack on a vacation and can read in a few days. It was a light and fun read. It’s the story of several women living around Los Angeles working through their various life struggles, and how an amazing teacher at a little Yoga studio in Silverlake helps them through those tough times with her yoga practice.

I really liked this book for the fact that it was light and entertaining. I enjoy yoga myself so it was relaxing to read about the practice and imagine owning my own little yoga studio in the artsy Silverlake area. It was a fun love story with an empowering female based storyline.


 The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz

I’ve always dreamed of packing up a few bags and moving to Paris or Italy for a year. I still may do it someday, but in the meantime, I tend to pick up books that talk about others doing that same thing. I like to live vicariously through them. So it goes without saying that I loved this book. You are probably familiar with David Lebovitz from his hugely popular ice cream book, The Perfect Scoop, and other cookbooks. This book has many of his great recipes littered throughout the stories of his experience living in Paris.

David is hilarious and kept me laughing throughout the story. I’ve also tagged several of the recipes to make in the future. This could be a great gift for a book loving foodie in your life.


One Hit Wonder by Charlie Carillo

I bought this book on a whim because I tend to buy books if I like the cover, I also liked the concept of the storyline. It’s the story of (you guessed it) a one hit wonder who wrote a chart topping love song 20 years ago. He comes back home to live with his parents after some bad luck and runs into the woman who inspired the love song he once wrote.

The book was good, but was far too long in my opinion. There were also several detailed one night stands that I could have done without, if for no other reason that to shorten the story. I did a lot of talking to the characters in this book. So while reading it, I would shout…’just call her already!’…’don’t say that dummy!’…or ‘good lord will this ever end?’

The book redeemed itself in the last few chapters, the best ending I could ask for, but it just took forever to get there.


I think I’m going to continue the reading trend into next month and try to finish another 4 books. With all the busyness of life, I tend to forget how relaxing reading can be.

Thanksgiving & Black Friday 2011

Where has this past week gone? I feel like I’ve spent the past few days in a dream like state. I never intended to take a break from blogging, but I found myself unexpectedly busy and sleepy. Last week, I worked Mon-Wed, on very little sleep, since things were just incredibly overwhelming to say the least at work. Luckily Wednesday was my last day at work for 12 days!

On Thursday I packed up my dog, a crap load of stuff and drove to my parents house.

They live near a golf course, not on the golf course..just in case you were wondering.

Thanksgiving was pretty low key and filled with excellent food, of which, I have exactly zero pictures. But it was all good, trust me. A few hours later (8pm to be exact) we packed up the car and headed out for our yearly Mother/Daughter Black Friday Shopping tradition.

First up was the local outlet mall which opened at 9pm.

Getting there early means we get front row parking and are able to leave very easily once the crowds descend.

Caffeine was required, in the form of a Cafe Mocha with 2 pumps Chai.

Black Friday Fuel

A few of the favorite stores were…

  • Banana Republic
  • Tommy Hilfiger
  • Calvin Klein
  • PUMA
  • BCBG
  • GAP
  • Fossil
  • Kitchen Gadget Store
  • Cosmetics Store
  • Harry & David
  • and so on…

Around 1am we stopped at Ruby’s and refueled on burgers and fries. We may just be delirious and starving, but these are pretty much the best burgers EVER.


After the outlets we stopped past Macy’s where I lost my mind while standing in a crazy long line. We were told we couldn’t use any of the coupons on our purchase so needless to say, Macy’s will not be on our list next year.

At 4am we stopped at Sports Authority to get our free gift cards and pick up a few things, then over to Dicks Sporting Goods and Target. This brought us to just before 7am and we were dead tired and headed home to sleep.

So…onto the good stuff. What did I get.

Black Friday Goodies 2011

Banana Republic (50% off everything):

  • 3 tops for me
  • 2 tops as a Christmas Gift for someone else (not pictured)

Tommy Hilfiger (40% off):

  • 1 sweater as a Christmas Gift for someone else (not pictured)

Cosmetics Store (10% off):

  • Clinique All About Eyes Cream
  • Clinique All About Eyes Serum Roller

Adidas (Various Sales):

  • Hat (not pictured)
  • Socks

Fossil (Various Sales):

  • 1 Pair of Earrings & a Ring at 50% off

Target (Various Sales):

  • The Big Bang Theory Season 3 & 4 (Marked down to $12)
  • Bic Lighters (not on sale, just needed them)

Sports Authority:

  • 2 pairs of Yoga Pants
  • 1 Pair Workout Shorts
  • 1 Pair Running Shoes

Dicks Sporting Goods:

  • 1 sweater
  • 1 Shirt as a Christmas Gift for someone else (Not pictured)

Nordstrom’s (these were bought on Sunday…but the deal was Black Friday Worthy):

  • 2 pairs of Jessica Simpson Pumps on Clearance (about $25 each)

Black Friday Shoes 2011

Black Friday 2011

Black Friday 2011

Black Friday 2011

Black Friday 2011

After shopping for nearly 11 hours straight, Friday was for resting and relaxing in the backyard which is exactly what we did. I also think a Big Bang Theory marathon happened in there as well.

Backyard View

I’ll be around the house for most of my vacation, but I did decide to ‘get away’ for Saturday night and stayed at a beautiful Marriott in San Diego for the night. I arrived just in time to watch the sunset over the Marina from the balcony.

San Diego Marina

I wandered around downtown for a bit, relaxed, read, and got some writing done. It was a really great evening and then I got to hang with my best friend sister for a few hours on Sunday. Monday was all about unpacking, running errands, and hanging out with this little guy who was exhausted from playing with my moms pups.


So while I can’t say I got anything done around the house lately, I have had a great week so far and can’t wait to jump back into regular blogging and house projects over the next few days.

What I’m Thankful For…

1. I’m thankful for my family. We’re small and close and I love every single one of them so very much.

2. I never expected to love this little guy as much as I do. My heart was broken after having to put down my first dog and it took me 3 years to work up the courage to give another little pup a good home. However, he has healed every part of my heart and brings me so much joy.

He was 3 lbs when I brought him home in 2008

I'm not getting into any trouble...yet ;)   All these pictures wear me out

He’s grown up to be such a handsome little man.

Baxter 3 years old

3. I’m thankful for my health,because even though I struggle with my weight, I am so much stronger that I realize.

10K finishing time

4. I’m thankful for the few close friends that have stuck with me over the years (you know who you are). I greatly appreciate the extended family you have become.

5. I’m thankful that I have had the opportunity to purchase my first home last year. It has been a great learning experience for me (especially when all the appliances seem to break in one month), but I do love calling it mine and the many improvement projects that are on my list. I feel very blessed to have had this opportunity so early in life.

6. I’m thankful that I have a 9-5 job that has some security and it pays the bills around here. I know how precious a job is and how many out there aren’t able to find them. I may not be the happiest person at work sometimes, but I do appreciate the fact that I have a good paying position at a secure company.

7. I’m so incredibly thankful that my boss allows me to telecommute and work from home every day.

8. I’m thankful for the Black Friday shopping tradition my mom and I share every year. We have a blast every year.

(Last years loot)


9. I’m thankful that I’ve finally taking my life back. It’s been a really tough few years for me and I honestly didn’t see anything good for a long time. This is the first year in a while where I’m able to look back and see my smile coming back.

10. Finally, the most amazing, purest thanks to everyone one of you that stops by this little blog. I started this blog in July with the primary purpose of documenting the things I did to take back my life and change my destiny, as small as they may be. In July I had 76 people stop by, this month so far almost 12,000 people have stopped by and it warms my heart. I never once thought that anyone would be interested in my home projects, recipes, and workout stories, but it honestly makes me smile bigger (and maybe tear up a little) with every comment, ‘like’, email, tweet…hell, anytime I hear from you it makes me smile. Also with your help, this month we’ve raised almost $120 for Toys for Tots through the Penny Donation Campaign, and the number is going up everyday. Thank you for stopping by, taking the time to read my stories, and your comments are so sweet. Thank you Thank you Thank you.

Regardless of whether you celebrate Thanksgiving with the US today, please take a few moments to share what you are thankful for and pass that gratitude along to someone else. Hug a parent, ask a grandparent about a happy memory from their youth, send a thank you card, mend a broken bridge with an old friend, start a gratitude journal, or just take a few moments to make someone else smile today. I wish you all the best during this holiday and my sincerest thanks to every single one of you.



Metamorphosis Level 1 – Complete

So we’re finally here, two weeks in and the first Level done! Things are going well and I feel great overall. For a little background, each level (I sometimes refer to them as cycles) will last me 14 days, 10 of which are Meta planned workouts. The other 4 days are either rest days or random fun workout days. I will post updates like this every 14 days for the next few months to keep me on track.


Pounds Lost this cycle: 7.7

Pounds Lost overall: 22.7

Inches Lost this cycle: 4”

Here is a recap of how the first cycle of Meta workouts.

Day 1 – 3

[D1] I’m no pro, but I do consider myself a pretty damn good dancer. I also have  knack at picking up routines very quickly. However, the first day I felt like a total spaz. The moves change so quickly during the dance cardio that it’s tough to keep up. [D2] It hurt to move. But I kept at it and did both the cardio and muscle work. [D3] I could move on day 3, but it hurt to breathe…and sneeze. Oh dear lord my abs hurt so bad when I sneezed, I wanted to cry. I completed both the muscle work and the cardio, but I was so sore I couldn’t go full out on the cardio.

Day 4

The soreness was getting better on day 4. I didn’t cringe when I walked down the stairs or burst into tears at the grocery store when I unexpectedly had to sneeze. Everything still hurt, but that was to be expected. I was working my body like never before. Even with all the pain, I felt stronger and leaner. As of day 4, I felt leaner because I had already lost about 5 lbs which was a great motivator to keep going.

Day 5

Finally the golden day, the first day everything felt good. I was still sore, but it was far from unbearable. In fact it felt like a badge of honor since I could feel my abs working and my legs felt strong. I still struggled on the leg muscle work, but it’s far better than on day 4.

Day 6

Part of the arm workout uses weights, but since I’m new to this, I haven’t been using them. However, on day 6, I added the 3 lb weights. It felt good and so empowering to be stronger today than a week ago.

Day 7 – 8

I only did the muscle work on day 7 & 8 because I was frankly still tired from finishing the 10K. The blisters on my feet hadn’t healed enough to put my tennis shoes back on so I skipped out on the 30 minutes of dancing for a good night sleep. However, I did add in the weights to the arm muscle work both days and it felt great. Just hard enough to really feel it, but totally doable since I’ve gotten so much stronger in the past week.

Day 9 – 10

Back in the groove and feeling good. I finished 30 minutes of Cardio Dance and the full muscle work with weights. Food did slip a little on these days but I honestly didn’t feel bad about it because over the course of 2 weeks I had worked out at least 10 days and lost almost 8 lbs.

General Tips I’ve learned this Cycle:

  • Know your own pace and how to push it. You get out of this program what you put in, so if you slack off, you’re only cheating yourself.
  • Do your own warm up and cool down, also add in a little stretching since it’s not really included in the DVDs.
  • Use your own playlist for the cardio dance and don’t be afraid to freestyle the entire dance section. I stopped following her cardio dance on day 4, I find it more fun to freestyle it.
  • Use a towel under your knee during the ground legwork (this made the biggest difference for me)
  • Watch all the DVDs at least once before starting the workout, trust me on this, it will seriously help you out.
  • Close your blinds until you really get the hang of this. You will look like a spaz the first time out, having the blinds closed meant I didn’t really care how I looked since no one could see me.
  • Odd fact: My left leg is stronger than my right; however, my right arm is far stronger than my left. Overall my arms are so much stronger than my legs right now.
  • The workouts are tough, but doable. Don’t feel like a failure just because you can’t keep up or do all the reps. Just keep going and you’ll see major progress.

Things I’ve learned work for me:

  • I like to work out at night since I’m a night owl. I do not do mornings very well. So at 6pm I started having  a little coffee to give me the perk up I needed to really push through the tough workout later that night. A little coffee to me is about 1/2 a cup. Anymore and I get very chatty and my dog didn’t appreciate it.
  • While I do still wear the BodyBugg to track my calorie burn, I stopped counting calories that I eat. I try to hit goals based on the number of fruits, veggies, and water I get that day. After that, I can have my ‘foodie’ dinner and not stress.
  • I really wear myself out when dancing so I learned that it was better for me to complete the muscle work first. Otherwise I’m too tired to maintain proper muscle work form after the cardio dance.

As I mentioned before, I’m not following the included Meta eating plan. A few people asked me to post my daily eats and while I won’t be sharing my eats on a daily basis (I just don’t have the patience for it), here are just some of the dinners I have had recently.

Potato Soup with Cheddar in a Bread bowl

Potato Cheddar Soup/Bread Bowl

Veggies, Eggs, and Toast

Breakfast For Dinner

Brussel Sprout stalks are back!! I roasted some sprouts and potatoes one night for a light dinner.

2011-11-12 16 20 02

Brown Rice, Tilapia, and Broccoli Cheddar patties (really good way to eat broccoli if you don’t like it)

Broccoli Patties & Rice

Spaghetti, Peas, Shrimp and Parmesan Marinara


Yesterday I started Level 2 and it hurts to breathe again, but I know I will get better and stronger everyday.

DIY: Creating A Fall Sign With Yarn

On my recent trip to Hobby Lobby I finally found the inexpensive letters that I’ve been looking for all month. I had all but given up on finding cheap letters anywhere and had almost scrapped the whole idea. Everywhere else the letters were several dollars each, and I’m pretty cheap when it comes to this stuff.

Hobby Lobby had these 8-inch pressed cardboard letters for 40% off which made just over a dollar each.

'Fall' Yarn Letter Sign

With a renewed sense of craftiness, I stopped past Michael’s and picked up the perfect cozy autumn colored yarn for half off. Each color of yarn was just under $2 each.

'Fall' Yarn Letter Sign

On a completely random note…who knew yarn was so expensive these days? Also, Vanna White has her own brand of yarn…interesting.

This project was pretty quick and I did it on my lunch hour this afternoon while watching a Psych rerun on my computer, thank you Netflix.

Step 1:

Collect your supplies.

  • 4 different colors of yarn
  • Hot Glue
  • Pressed Cardboard letters
  • Twine
  • Staple Gun

Step 2:

Decide which direction you want your yarn to be. For the 1st and 3rd letters, I wanted the yarn to run vertical. The 2nd and 4th letters would be horizontal. I started with the ‘F’ and wrapped the letter around horizontally, using hot glue throughout to keep the yarn in place.

'Fall' Yarn Letter Sign

Once it was wrapped one time, I went back over it in the other direction.

Step 3:

Finish all the other letters.

The letter ‘A’ was the hardest since the letter had angles so I had to get creative on how to wrap it neatly. I used a lot more glue on the ‘A’ which helped keep everything neat and allowed me to wrap it pretty quickly.

'Fall' Yarn Letter Sign

'Fall' Yarn Letter Sign

Step 4:

Using a hot glue gun, glue the 4 letters together. I used lots of glue for this to make sure they would stay together after being hung up.

'Fall' Yarn Letter Sign

'Fall' Yarn Letter Sign

'Fall' Yarn Letter Sign

Step 5:

Connect some twine to the back of the letters using the staple gun. Hang up and enjoy.

'Fall' Yarn Letter Sign

The sign is actually meant for the front door post to replace the Halloween sign, but it was too dark outside to share that picture, so my pantry door was all to happy to step in.

'Fall' Yarn Letter Sign

'Fall' Yarn Letter Sign

Project Cost Breakdown:

4 Pressed Cardboard Letters (Hobby Lobby) = $5

4 Different Colors of Yarn (Michaels) = $8

Hot Glue Gun & Glue (Already Owned) = $0

Twine (Already Owned) = $0

Staple Gun (Already Owned) = $0

Total Project Cost: $13

I’m Feeling Inspired – Thanksgiving

I took a little unexpected vacation from the blog this weekend to work on a few projects around the house which I hope to be sharing with you soon. I’ve progressed with the tile removal from the fireplace and my contractor (aka: my dad) is coming over next week to help me with some repairs and planning the next steps. I’ve also installed all the moulding in the dining room. Now I just need to do some light sanding, priming, and painting. I also stopped past the new Hobby Lobby in my town. It was my first time visiting one and I think I stood in the entrance for a good 5 minutes with my jaw on the floor. It’s like the Costco of art/craft/decor stores! After composing myself, I walked to the craft section and within 5 minutes had my hands so full of goodies I had to walk all the way back to the front for a cart since I couldn’t fit anything in my hands. Just in case you have never been, the lines were like Costco too, very long, but the customers were chatty.

I also enjoyed some relaxing time last night as evidenced by this Tweet:


The chocolate candy was very fitting for the book I was reading since a lot of it had to do with chocolate.

Anyway, I’m back in the groove this week and I’ll have a post up later today about a DIY Fall sign to swap out the Halloween Sign (ya know, just in time for Christmas). In the meantime, here some Thanksgiving inspiration to get your through till Turkey Day.

Pinned Image

Source: I can’t find the original source, please let me know if you know it so I can properly credit it.

Source: I can’t find the original source, please let me know if you know it so I can properly credit it (and make these!).

All this food is making me hungry.

An Old Fashioned Thank You

Living in an electronic world has it advantages, and on a daily basis I embrace the electronic, gadgety side of life. In fact I work my 9-5 job for a techie company, but there is one thing that I demand be done via Snail Mail.

Thank You Notes!

Source: via Morgan on Pinterest



As a kid, we didn’t have that new fangled thing we now call email. We had to write letters and thank you notes with…gasp…a pen and paper. My kids will someday be shocked by this I’m sure. However, I hope I can pass along this little bit of advice.

Always send thank you notes…via snail mail.

Everyone loves mail, as long as it doesn’t have a window, or have the word ‘Collections’ on the front. So you have a win-win situation with thank you notes. They are a sweet gesture that I promise you will be remembered.



Growing up, my parents taught me to always send thank you notes to family and friends when I received a gift, yes they raised me right.



As I’ve gotten older, I always sent thank you notes to family and friends for Christmas/Birthday gifts. However, I’ve also started sending thank you notes for invites to parties/events, if I’m a guest in someone’s home, or if someone has gone out of their way to do something nice for me.



To this day, I hear that my family and friends appreciate the little notes year after year. Nothing puts you in their good graces more than showing some appreciation for their gesture. But that’s not really what it’s all about. Even if you thank them in person, it’s still a very gracious gesture to send a thank you note…and let’s face it, we could use a little more grace in this world.



My advice to you, especially if you have kids, students, or other tiny humans in your family; teach them at a young age to send thank you notes via snail mail. No matter how electronic we get in life, this is a life lesson that will serve them well over the years.



So go out and purchase a set of adorable cards that you can use year round and be sure to check Etsy for other incredible styles.

Kitchen Ledge Installation

I’m a strong believer that you can make small changes to your home and it can have a BIG impact. Paint is the first thing to come to mind, as it’s probably the most inexpensive design element that can make the biggest impact. However, once you venture beyond paint, there are a lot of other options when you start to think outside the box.

In this case the design ‘box’ was an awkward half wall that separated the living room and kitchen. This wall also has the sink and dishwasher.


At first I thought that the wall would perfectly accommodate a breakfast bar, but there is a clearance issue as you enter the room. Hands down, everyone would run into the bar when they enter the room, which I’m pretty sure would be incredibly annoying…and painful.


However, in this state it was a wasted space. The wall was slightly uneven so balancing items on it was difficult and it was cracking along the top as well. It just looked out-of-place and unfinished.


This design dilemma had a simple fix that made a huge difference. See there was a point to my intro above.

With a little moulding, a primed piece of MDF, some screws, glue, and caulking…we had a perfect ledge. It also tied in with every other ledge in the house which gave everything a very unified feeling.


A little before and after action for you…

DSC03171     DSC03173

The whole thing was assembled off site and then brought to the house and installed in about 30 minutes. By off site…I mean my dad was sweet talked into yet another project. That man is just too good to me when it comes to house projects.


This shelf has been an amazing addition and it looks like it came with the house. Now I can set items on the ledge without fear of them tipping over and spilling all over the carpet. It also lends itself well to holding groceries that need to be put into the pantry, which is just outside the kitchen.


You can see the pantry in this picture, it’s the door on the left hand side of the picture. You can also see a ledge that was built with the house in the background taped off in blue as I was applying a fresh coat of paint. They match incredibly well.


The entire project was less than $30, in fact it may have even been less than that, but unfortunately I didn’t keep any of the receipts.

What simple projects have you done that made a huge impact in your home?


Linking to: Addicted 2 Decorating

Fireplace Progress – Tile Removal

What happens when you have writers block and a never ending home project list…

Fireplace Demolition

This happens!

…but before I go any further, let’s take a quick look back. A few months back I shared that I really wanted to redo the fireplace in time to hang Christmas stockings and we’re coming up on the stocking hanging season. I’ve also been talking about it ever since I moved in over a year ago. It’s one of the top 5 things I want to do in this house.

Here’s a shot of the living room before I moved in. The walls were sage green, the carpet was sage green (and still is), and the beige fireplace tiles pretty much blended right into the wall.

Ugly, Ugly, Ugly…


Within the first month I painted the wall a grey (that unfortunately looks slightly purple) and the fireplace looked better.


The next step was to paint the fireplace screen, and remove all traces of brass. You can read more about that process here and it cost less than $5 to do.


As I find myself in the middle of November I figured it was time to get started on the next steps. So while I was sitting on the couch last night, staring at the fireplace, avoiding my computer…I decided to pull down some tile. Actually I decided to see what would happen if I picked at one corner with some tools.

Fireplace Demolition

Apparently when they built the house, they didn’t use thin set to adhere the tile to the wall. This is not really a shocker based on how other parts of the house were constructed. They used large globs of construction adhesive and A LOT of grout. The first few tiles came down very fast, within minutes, they were barely holding on. Since things were going smoothly, I kept at it.

Fireplace Demolition

About 20 minutes later I had the entire top row removed. At this point it was getting to late to continue. The fireplace wall is shared with my neighbor and I didn’t feel right making that much noise while they were home. I’ll have to keep working on it, and I hope to have all the tile down this weekend.

Fireplace Demolition

I expect that I’ll need to do some drywall repair, but otherwise everything is coming down better than expected. Hopefully the rest of the tiles come down as easily as the first few.

…and a few of my inspiration pictures. These are the closest I can find that fit the vision I have in my head. I already have the tile picked out (and partially purchased), but I’m still planning out the surround.

Source: via Addison on Pinterest