i’ma make some plants

so, i’ve been quite the slacker when it comes to this blog! i can’t believe my last post was in july of last year. actually, i can once i consider that july of last year is when i began the process of becoming a homeowner! a lot of things went on the backburner while we navigated the process of showings, offers, counteroffers, home inspections, and the like. i closed on a house in october and i’ve had lots of projects to keep me busy! one of the main selling points of the house was the gigantic yard – it’s a double lot on a corner – because i have been wanting a vegetable garden for years! well, this year, it’s happening.

since i live in the frozen tundra of northern wisconsin, i need to get a little head start on the growing season so i am starting seeds inside. today i planted tomatoes, green peppers and red peppers and put them under my handy grow light setup. not the most sophisticated thing in the world, but it works! i’ve got a folding table upside down with the light hanging from the table legs. it’s in the guest room, which gets the least traffic in the house, and being on the table means i can slide the whole operation around when needed. i’ll be adding some more things at a later date but these are what need to get started first.

i’m a little concerned about the temperature – i have not invested in any warming mats or anything to provide heat underneath so hopefully the light is enough. normally we keep the door closed, but we’ll keep it open now so the room stays a little warmer. i do see some condensation forming tonight, so that’s a good sign!

IMG_20140329_105011079 Veggie Light

p.s. one of the home projects is visible in these photos. the entire house was carpeted when we got it – ripped it up in the guest room and office and revealed this beautiful hardwood floor underneath!

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give me your t-shirts, i will give you a quilt

well, i did it! i have successfully completed the fella’s t-shirt quilt. i am so glad i finished it during my vacation – with a day to spare, even!

this was a hell of a project. when i tackle mine, i think i will do a few things differently:

  • actually have a pattern or gameplan before i start cutting and sewing
  • figure out materials i will need in advance and buy them in one trip, rather than 8 or 9 trips to hobby lobby, walmart, and hancock fabrics
  • be more careful overall with corners/straight edges/measuring; possibly make a frame if i can make my t-shirt squares all the same size
  • possibly quilt as i go; the fella’s is not actually quilted (and i may still add ties); next time, i am considering sewing the sashing onto the squares onto the backing all in one, but that may not actually happen

here are some photos of the project. i am so glad to be done with it! and the fella loves it; he used it while watching a movie last night and brought it to bed with him. :)

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vacation is great for creating things

so, i have totally fallen off the blogging bandwagon. it’s not that i haven’t been making things, but haven’t found time for blogging. awhile back i put some photos in a folder called “blog these” – there are 10 projects and that doesn’t include anything from the last few months!

this week i’ve been doing a TON of sewing – i am finally tackling the t-shirt quilt project! when we moved last summer, we sorted through t-shirts and packed up a box and labeled it “t-shirt quilt” – and a year later, i am finally working on it. i’m currently stumped as to how to proceed but since i’ve got the sewing bug (and am on vacation), i wanted a simple project for the evening. i saw this idea on pinterest and thought hey – i can handle that! there was not a tutorial with the photo so i just decided to wing it. i asked the fella for a button-up shirt he no longer cared about, found a brown tank top in the bottom of a drawer, poured a drink (this is an important step), and went to work. 15 minutes later – voila! a new summer top!

since there was no tutorial, here are some basic instructions:

try on the tank top you are using, and mark just above the boobs (or wherever you want the shirts to meet). then, remove tank top and mark a line 1/2 inch below where you marked (seam allowance).

lay out the men’s top (buttoned up and smoothed out) and cut across just below the armpits.

then, pin some seams in the front of the shirt to make pleats (and more importantly, size the shirt to match the tank top). i used the shirt stripes as a guide for pinning mine. also, make sure your pleats all face the way you want – i messed one up and did it the wrong way.

then, pin the tank and the shirt together. the right sides should face each other. this was a little tricky – i did the front first, then flipped the tank top around the shirt and did the rest. make sure that you pull the shirt and tank taut how you want them to be sewn together.

once you’re all pinned up, sew them together. since the tank top fabric was very stretchy, i found it bunching up so i created a little pleat right in the middle of the front of the tank top. this helped keep things even as i sewed all the way around.

when you finish sewing, cut your thread, turn it right-side-out, and voila! a new summer top!

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making a healthier me

just over 6 months ago, i decided that i was fed up with the extra weight i put on in grad school and fed up with being out of shape and unhappy in my own skin. on september 7, 2012 i logged onto myfitnesspal for the first time – i am not even positive how i found out about it. i think i was just looking for a website to track calories and found it by googling. i used slim fast’s website for a food diary the first time in my life i lost weight, during my senior year of college, but didn’t really like the site.

myfitnesspal is amazing. everyone’s different, but it has been fantastic for me. it has been the single biggest factor in my weight loss – 23 pounds so far – and after 6 months, i can’t imagine ever not logging my food and exercise.

on september 7th, i got started at 175 pounds. i didn’t take measurements right at the start – the first measurements i took were on october 10th (i had lost 3 pounds at that point). on that date, my measurements were:

natural waist: 33
low waist: 39
hips: 44
thigh: 26

today, i weigh 152 (13% loss) pounds and my measurements are:

natural waist: 30 (9%)
low waist: 33 (15%)
hips: 41 (7%)
thigh: 24 (8%)
*body fat: 26.9%

*i have no idea what my body fat percentage was to start. using online calculators, my guesstimate is roughly 30-31%. i had it measured at my gym and it was 26.9% a couple weeks ago, which aligned with one online calculator – so i used that online one to figure out that 30% was my starting body fat percentage.

my original goal was to reach somewhere between 135 and 145 pounds. once i am comfortably in the 140’s, i am less concerned about my weight and more concerned with making my body look better and improving my overall numbers (such as measurements and body fat). i have read the stories of several women who lost weight to their goal but were “skinny fat” and then started weightlifting. most of them gained weight but continued losing inches and becoming more toned/sculpted. my goal body fat percentage is 23%.

exercise is something that is becoming a bigger part of my life. in 2011 i got into running for the first time, and ran three 5k’s that summer. once winter hit, i stopped running. last summer with our big move, i didn’t really do much running. i started again this winter and signed up for a 10k – pretty much on a whim – and knew being registered would help keep me motivated to get into a training program. it was then that i decided to get a gym membership so i couldn’t use the weather as an excuse anymore. i also decided then to enter the lottery for a half marathon that will take place on my 29th birthday – and i got in! the 10k is perfectly aligned with my training for the half marathon. that race is in 3 weeks and i am up to 5 miles on my long weekend runs, so i should be in good shape to run 6.1 in 3 weeks. my goal for the 10k is to run the entire time with a time of 1:15:00 or less. my goal for the half is to run the whole time and finish, but using an online pace estimator my goal is to come in around 3 hours.

i had intended to write a post once i reach my goal weight, but i decided that i wanted to document where i am today and have something to look back on.

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gnocch gnocch, who’s there?

tonight’s dinner was a gnocch out! (i have clearly been watching too much my drunk kitchen lately). here are all the things tonight’s dinner have going for it:

  • it helps out with one of my new year’s resolutions
  • it’s different – adds a little variety to our diet
  • it’s a one-skillet dish
  • it’s quick
  • it’s relatively low cal
  • it has spinach in it – no side dish necessary!
  • the fella actually likes it

that’s a whole lotta positives for one recipe! so, what was for dinner? this skillet gnocchi with spinach and white beans (the original recipe called for chard, but i made it with spinach). it very nearly didn’t happen, as i couldn’t find the non-refrigerated gnocchi at the store. i went back for another look and found it in the international section – hoorah!

the only negative with this dish is the proportions – it would be better with a little more gnocchi and a little less bean action. other than that, perfection!

this was my first time using the fella’s new cast iron skillet for anything other than frying up an egg and a slice of canadian bacon. man, that sucker gets hot! i also got to try out the silicon handle-gripper thingy that we picked up last night. we went out to dinner and stopped to browse in a kitchen store – and i could barely drag the fella out of there! i thought it would be me wanting to browse all night, but when i was ready to go he was barely getting started. i managed to get him out with just this one purchase, though!

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fitted a-line sweater pattern

i designed a sweater! a sweater that i am actually willing to wear in public!

while i was in grad school, i made a dress for a friend’s baby using a pattern from bella bambina knits. i haven’t made many garments, and this pattern was a bit of a light bulb moment for me in terms of the overall construction of a top-down dress or shirt. at the time, i thought it would make a cute adult top and have been meaning to play around with it ever since.

so, a couple of weeks ago, i decided it was time. using the basic premise of the baby dress pattern, i played around with the math/stitches to make a ladies’ top, size medium. other adjustments included changes to the armholes, some shaping at the bust, lowering the “waistline” to an empire waist, and some different shaping in the torso. i also added an edging, which was not part of the original pattern.

i am loving this sweater, so i thought i would share the pattern so that others can make it. this is my first time writing out a pattern, so please feel free to post questions in the comments if anything is unclear. enjoy!

liv’s a-line sweater pattern

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so sweet, but yet so sour

we have been trying to incorporate some new recipes into the routine lately, and there was one recipe in particular that i pinned awhile back and have been meaning to try. it’s a quick and easy version of sweet and sour chicken that has a ton of positive feedback.

i have always wanted to learn a little more about how to make chinese food – i’ve tried whipping things together without a recipe in the past and the meat is never like what you get at a chinese restaurant. it’s one of those things i’ve been meaning to get around to, but just never have.

so when this recipe called for coating the chicken in cornstarch, dipping in egg, and searing it in oil before baking it, i thought to myself – ok, this must be what makes the meat turn out so differently.  a quick google searched confirmed my suspicion, and it even has a name – this method of cooking is called “velveting” the meat and it’s what gives the meat in chinese dishes that signature soft, velvety texture.

there are no pictures of the dipping-and-searing process because that process was a hot mess (literally) – eggy cornstarch goop everywhere! next time, i need to let the oil heat up more – i started searing the chicken a little prematurely this time. it doesn’t seem to have affected the taste, but it ended up taking longer and probably not searing the meat properly.

i’ll also probably use about half of the sugar next time (or adjust other ingredients up to offset the sugar but still make enough sauce). it was really heavy on the “sweet” and pretty light on the sour. the fella thought it was fine, but after a few bites i was pretty convinced that the amount of sugar in the sauce is overkill.

another modification – i chopped up some red bell pepper and tossed it in with the meat and sauce to bake. perfect! i will try some other veggies next time i make it.

methinks this will be a common dish from now on!

chickity china, the chinese chicken

chickity china, the chinese chicken

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