March Meal Plan – Part 1

Last week I talked about our new Paleo diet and today I’m going to share with you a couple of weeks of meals. Twice a month I’ll give you a couple of weeks of meals so you can follow along with what we’re fixing. If something is super tasty, I’ll share the recipe and specifics. Also, some of the recipes are from cookbooks that I own or that I’ve borrowed from the library. I’ll do my best to provide links and sources for everything.

Week 1

Sunday – Beef Brisket in Espresso Bean BBQ Sauce (The Paleo Slow Cooker) with roasted green beans and mashed cauliflower (like mashed potatoes, but with cauliflower!)

Monday – Leftovers

Tuesday - Damn Fine Chicken with roasted broccoli and fruit

Wednesday – Ash Wednesday – fasting/no meal planned

Thursday – Bacon Apple Smothered Pork with a salad

Friday, Saturday – Out of town, no meals planned

 

Week 2

Sunday – Fiery Jalapeño Burgers with Sweet Potato “Buns” and salad (we used ground beef instead of bison – it was SUPER delicious with the sweet potato “buns”)

Monday – Curried Chicken Wings (The Paleo Slow Cooker)  with fruit

Tuesday – Korean Beef Wrapped Asparagus with baked sweet potatoes and strawberries

Wednesday – Chicken Bacon Mushroom Quiche with fruit (I made this without the mushrooms)

Thursday – Leftovers

Friday – Asian Orange Pan Seared Scallops (Practical Paleo) with a salad

Saturday – Sweet and Sour Meatballs with mashed cauliflower and Mustard Roasted Asparagus (Primal Cravings)

If you want specific recipes that I aren’t online, just let me know and I’ll send you the recipe!

I’m attempting to make scallops tonight for the first time. I’m not a big fan of seafood, but it’s Lent and I can’t just pop a cheese pizza in the oven! So, one of my goals this Lent is to branch out into the world of seafood on Fridays. I’m a little scared, but I’m trying to keep an open mind! Wish me luck!

Happy Friday!

We’ve Gone Paleo

Over the past few months, Matt and I have switched over to the Paleo diet. Have you heard of it? If you haven’t, you’re not alone. Most people we’ve talked to about it haven’t heard of it and think we’re crazy for trying it.  The basic idea of the Paleo diet is to avoid all grains, dairy, and legumes, along with refined sugars, processed foods, and starches. So, if we can’t eat bread, dairy, rice, or beans, what do we eat? The answer is simple in theory, but more difficult in practice – lean meats, vegetables, nuts/seeds, and fruit. Easy, right? We’ve had great success with sticking to this diet at home, even though it takes a bit more planning and effort than the traditional American diet. I am still planning out my meals, either weekly or monthly, depending on how much time I have. The planning allows us to have complete control over everything we eat at home. We always have healthy snacks and filling meals. But, the difficulty lies in eating out or in someone else’s home. While we are pretty dedicated and convicted about this new way of eating, that does NOT mean that we don’t miss bread. Or rice. Or sweet treats. So, we’ve chosen to stick to this diet about 90% at home and then we give ourselves a little leeway when are not eating at home. We still try to make smart decisions about our food, but we indulge a little. That’s what has made it possible for us to remain committed. We can’t beat ourselves up or feel guilty about eating non-Paleo food occasionally, as long as we are sticking with the plan the majority of the time.

So, why are we doing this crazy diet? For us, the most simple reason is that it was recommended by the physician I see. He also eats Paleo and knows personally and professionally that the health benefits of eliminating grains, dairy, and legumes are huge. After being on the diet for a few days, I could already notice a change in my energy levels. And I can definitely tell that my body does not work as properly when I eat the “avoided” foods. Especially pizza. Yikes.

Anywho, I know this sounds like a giant push for a diet that sounds like a fad. But, we’ve decided to stick with it and you all know I love talking about food on the blog. So, my food posts will be a bit different from here on out. No more pasta dishes or homemade bread.  I do want to share with you the recipe resources that I have found helpful. I want to share our meal plans and the ups and downs of this journey. So, please stick with us, and maybe even give cauliflower rice a try. What do you think?

So, next week, I’ll share our meal plan for March. Until then, check out my two go-to sources for online recipes:

Nom Nom Paleo:

 

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Against All Grain:

 

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Have a great weekend!

Catching Up

We’re baaaccckk!!! Hopefully for awhile this time! It’s been so long and I always am on the fence about whether I should get back into blogging or not. But the fact is, I like sharing what’s going on and I feel like I am more disciplined when I have a blogging schedule. I take more pictures, stick to my crazy schemes more, and just feel more creative! So, before we dive into bathroom updates (finishing out the last one and updating you on the Master bath!), food, and crafts, I thought I would give you a little update on what we’ve been doing with ourselves.

Let’s take it back to Fall 2013. In October, Matt and I traveled home to Louisville for the marriage of two dear friends and to stay with my siblings while my parents took a little adventure to Texas.

The wedding was probably one of the most beautiful weddings we’ve ever been to. It’s always beautiful to see sweet, dear friends marry, but Dave and Kat’s wedding was wonderful, from the  gorgeous church to the Jewish marriage blessing to the last bite of Derby pie.

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While we were hanging out in Louisville, we also got the opportunity to see Matt’s brother do a little stand-up comedy. The event of the evening was the Roast of Freddy Kruger. Can you guess who Matt’s brother was? (He’s the one in the middle of the picture below, if you didn’t already figure that out!).

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It turned out to be family night for Mark. The only problem was that no one told him that many members of his family would be sitting in the front row!

After our fun times in Louisville, we headed across the river to spend some quality time with my younger siblings while my parents headed to Texas to watch my little brother, Paul, graduate from Air Force Basic Training. We are all so incredibly proud of Paul and all that he’s accomplished.

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And you know…when the parents are away, the kids will play. Well, actually, we just fixed them food, helped with homework, and planned out some Halloween costumes.

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After our fun time in Louisville/Southern Indiana, we hit the pavement with craft shows. We had a craft show almost every weekend the month of November. It was crazy times, but we definitely learned how to set up the booth in a jiffy.

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And sometimes even with lights!

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And then we were back in Louisville, celebrating Christmas, New Year’s, and by brother, Stephen’s, birthday.

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This year Stephen had a bit of trouble blowing out all those candles. It took so very long that I was able to switch over mid-way through and catch the last bit of the hilarity on video.

 

January and February have been packed with quilt making, work, and another bathroom remodel.  I’ll be back later this week to share our new diet – the one where we don’t eat any grains, dairy, or legumes. Yikes! Happy Monday!

Cheap computers for the TV

An update to my Geeky computer post back in Feb 2012.

A Raspberry Pi

I have used my Network Attached Storage (NAS) to record free TV from the antenna and store my Movie and TV Show collection.  To play the video files on the TV, I joined the crowd of teenage girls and ordered a $35 Raspberry Pi (RPi) when first released and received it in mid-June 2012.  Raspbmc software was released soon after to allow the Raspberry Pi to easily connect to the TV and use  XMBC to play video files from my NAS.  I’ve used the RPi for the past year and I must say that it does nearly everything I want: play movies, TV Shows, recorded TV, and occasional sporting event.  The RPi supports MPEG-2 decoding to play HDTV after purchasing a license for $3.84.  Because the RPi includes hardware decoders for all the video codecs I use, watching HD-quality video is easily handled.

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My favorite part is that I can quickly browse my video library using Yatse on an Android device, then with a simple touch the video starts up on the TV (see Yatse screenshot to the right).  Browsing the video collection shows poster art, summaries of the movie or TV show, and other interesting info like user ratings.  It sure beats sifting through a closet full of DVDs to find the movie or TV show I’d like to watch, taking it out of the sleeve, putting it in the DVD player, having to skip through all the previews, and then having to sit through all the FBI screens.  That’s too much work compared to the measly hours that I spend setting up the NAS, the RPi, and Yatse.

When it comes to tasks that need some processing umph such as skipping commercials in recorded HDTV or using video plugins that provide easy access to online video streaming services, the Raspberry Pi starts to show its limitations.  When skipping commercials on HDTV recordings, for each 30s skip forward I have to wait 3-5 seconds before it begins responding again.  When browsing for online video content, switching directories can take up to a couple minutes.  I have to keep in mind, though, that the RPi is a $35 device with a single 700Mhz processor based on a 12-year-old architecture, so it’s not fast enough to be a media pc killer.  Recently, however, some devices have come out that very well could make the claim.

Ouya

I was eyeing the Ouya which is a 3″ cube with 4 processors @ 1.7GHz each, 1GB RAM, HDMI 1.4 w/ 3D support, and 8GB SSD internal storage.  It started as a Kickstarter project in July 2012, earned $8.5 Million from supporters, then recently shipped in June 2013.  The Ouya was made primarily as a cheap gaming console and 3rd-party applications are available that can run old Nintendo gamesXBMC is shown to be a snappy interface when running on the Ouya.  I, however, found a showstopper with the Ouya: it does not support MPEG-2 decoding which is needed to watch recorded HDTV.  Also, some have complained about fan noise.  It is nicely priced, though, at $99.

Fortunately, the CuBox-i was announced this September.  The CuBox-i4Pro is  2″ cube, has 4 processors at 1.0Ghz each, 2GB RAM, HDMI 1.4 w/ 3D support, and IR receiver/transmitter.  Best I can tell, each of the 4 processors run about 2500 DMIPS which is about as fast as the single processor in the Boxee Box that launched three years ago. The CuBox-i is fanless and supports out-of-the-box decoding of MPEG-2, MPEG-4, H.264, DIVX, and more.  Interestingly enough, emulators are soon to be integrated directly into XBMC so the CuBox-i in theory should support playing Nintendo games.  The processor, however, is clocked slower than the Ouya (I assume to keep it small and fanless), so the decrease in performance may hinder emulators from running properly.  Usually with pieces of hardware like this, it’s risky to order before users have reviewed it.  To put those worries at ease, two software packages already have been announced to run the same XBMC software as the RPi: linXBMC and GeeXbox.  This signals lots of community support for this device to get it up and working.

The Quad version of the CuBox-i is $147.99, including 5V power supply and shipping from Israel where they are made.  As of now, they only offer black but their website shows a video with a red device.  As soon as they make the red available, I’ll be ordering one.  Go CARDS!

Lately

Well it has been awhile, hasn’t it? We have a busy few months on the horizon, so I thought it would be fun to not only finish our bathroom update and catch you up with what’s been happening, but also share our fall adventures.

In May, we had our annual Kentucky Derby party. I wore a fascinator and felt like Kate Middleton!

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In June, Matt and I traveled to the San Francisco area to vacation and visit some of our dearest friends, Dave and Elizabeth.  We visited Yosemite, Napa Valley, and the Bay area. It was a perfect summer trip!

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Once back in Florida, I hit the ground running with Operation Craft Show Stock-up.

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I also launched a new product in the Etsy shop, a super cool Superhero Quilt.

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In August, my brother Paul left for Air Force Basic Training. All the Harper siblings gathered to bid him farewell. As always, it was wonderful to spend some time together, but it was a little bittersweet, not knowing when our next time together will be.

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We had a really busy and fun summer and are looking forward to an action packed fall! I’ll keep you posted!

 

Bathroom Remodel : Shower Walls

Are you ready for another bathroom update? Last week we watched as Matt fixed some pipe and added concrete board to the shower enclosure. Today, we add shower walls.  When we were planning this bathroom remodel, one of the biggest decisions we had to make was shower wall material. Matt really wasn’t digging the idea of putting tile on the walls, so we set our sights on a shower insert. But, after checking out a few samples at Lowe’s, we weren’t too impressed with the hollowness of insert walls. So, after reviewing the non-insert, non-tile options, we landed on Swanstone panels from Home Depot.  These panels are made from some composite material and are 1/4″ thick. They get attached to the concrete board with silicone caulk and are supposed to fit right into your shower enclosure. Easy, peasy.

So, naturally, ours didn’t fit exactly. Apparently our slab slopes downward a bit which means that the tub slopes a bit meaning that the Swanstone piece going along the back wall of the shower had to be trimmed at the exact angle of the downward slope.

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Once the big piece was happily in place, Matt moved on to the first stressful bit of this process, cutting holes in our new, expensive shower walls for the faucet and valve.

IMG_9376_1Making multiple templates with cardboard is the way to go.

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And then hold your breath when you make the cut into the actual shower piece.

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Whew!  With that out of the way, he quickly cut down the third piece to fit and moved on to stressful bit number 2. Gluing the panels to the walls. The manufacturer recommended using silicone caulk, which is nice because it is not super fast drying. If a mistake was made, there would be time to adjust. The downside of the slower drying silicone caulk is getting enough pressure on each panel while the glue dries, ensuring a successful, gap free bond.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have any volunteers to stand and push against the panels for hours, so Matt had to create a brace.

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Every few minutes of this process, parts of the brace would tumble. It was incredibly frustrating and very much like building a card tower out of 2×4′s. It really felt like you needed 10 arms to get it to stay put, but between the two of us, we finally managed to make it work.

And the next day, the braces were removed and the gluing process was deemed a success. IMG_9395_1Now, in the picture above, do you see that gap in the corner of the shower where the seams meet? Luckily, the manufacturer understands that no one can get those panels to line up perfectly, so they provide corner pieces to glue in the seams.

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IMG_9444_1Matt also added some little shelves in one of the corners and taped everything up while the silicone caulk dried.

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IMG_9450_1After one last round of caulking the seams, the shower enclosure was complete!

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It’s so clean, bright, and smooth! We love the way it turned out, a great improvement on the grey mismatched tile that was there before. And getting the shower done makes the bathroom seem so much closer to being complete! Overall, the experience of the Swanstone was a bit tedious, but mostly just took some patience. It definitely feels solid, sturdy, and easy to clean!

Next up, tile!

Fresh Pipe, Fresh Walls, Fresh Paint

Last week I left you with this bit of trouble:

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The plumbing not matching the tub. Yikes. The old plumbing that was too short was poured into the slab which meant that Matt had to chisel out the old PVC pile and lay some new pipe. So, Matt pulled the tub back out and got to work.

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Other than the fact that Matt had to visit a specialty PVC store for 22.5 degree elbows and a scare with some too fast drying concrete the process went swimmingly. Actually, Matt said it was very tedious and stressful because he had one shot to get everything right.

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Once the concrete was dry, Matt applied a layer of thin set in the tub space and then we sorta dropped the tub into place.

With the tub in its final resting place, Matt was able to finish installing the concrete board.

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And patching up the seams.

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Next, he applied some drywall mud to the tops of the concrete board, which will be exposed above the shower walls and will be painted.

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And on another thrilling not, Matt added an exhaust fan to keep those mirrors unsteamed.

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And he painted the ceiling and walls! We can’t figure out if the old ceiling paint was beige or dirty.

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Either way, clean white is the way to go! The new wall color is a light grey. I don’t have a good shot of the new wall paint, but you’ll see some of that in the next few posts. This bathroom is shaping up, slowly but surely!

Next up, adding shower walls!

Bathroom Remodel Update

Hello! I’m back to chat about our bathroom remodel. Last time we checked in, Matt had removed the vanity and half wall and pulled up all the tile. Next up is fixing some drywall. Matt had to fix up the spot where the half wall was along with a few other various spots.

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Drywall is hard stuff to make look right. I think after all these projects, Matt is going to be a drywall pro!

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He also replaced the nasty insulation in the shower. New is always so nice and clean!

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Since we dealt with some water damage this time, we definitely did what we could to make this shower water-proof. That process started with adding tar paper over the the studs and insulation.

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The tar paper was followed by cement board.

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But before Matt could add the bottom later of cement board, he was faced with changing out the valve body for the new shower valve.

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After considering (for about 2 minutes) doing this bit of plumbing himself, we decided to call in the professionals.  So, 1 plumber and about an hour later, we had a new valve body installed.

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Then came the really fun part, placing the tub in place to see if all the old plumbing matched the new, pretty tub.

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And guess what??

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The old plumbing didn’t match the new tub. Bummer. We’ll be back next week with how Matt fixed this problem!

Smashing Tile

On Wednesday I updated you on the beginnings of our bathroom demo and today you get the rest of the story.  After the tub and surrounding tile had been removed, Matt moved onto vanity removal.

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This was a fairly straight forward process: turn off water, remove sinks, remove vanity top, remove vanity bottom. Easy peasy.

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Next up was one of the most rewarding parts of this demo. Removing the half wall. Matt just went at it with a sledge hammer.  Doesn’t it look like Wolverine was here?

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And now for the last bit, pulling up the tile. (Yes, the toilet paper is still on the roll. I have absolutely no idea why this is!).

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Matt thought he could just knock it out with the Wonder Bar. After a fruitless couple of minutes, he headed to Home Depot to rent a tile remover tool.

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Although it was super loud, it was pretty magical.

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And once the tile was all up, he switched attachments and used the tool to remove the grout.

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And then he piled everything up and put it at the curb for garbage day. I was sure that they wouldn’t take the sinks and the bathtub but when we came home from work, it was all gone!

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This is probably one of my favorite points in a remodel. Pulling out all the grossness and moving on to adding new, fresh pieces.  This weekend will hopefully bring lots of those fresh new pieces including adding a fan, patching some drywall, painting, and maybe even putting in the bathtub! Happy Friday!

There Be Mold

We began the bathroom remodel this weekend with a smash and bang. Actually, those were the noises coming from the bathroom while Matt was destroying all the tile.

(I don’t have a lot of action shots for these steps because the bathroom was pretty dusty/moldy the whole time. I tried to sneak in every now and then to get a shot, but some of the true details of how Matt demolished this bathroom will remain a mystery!)

Friday night began with chipping away at the tile around the shower and the tub. Remember this scary bulge?

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Here’s what was behind it. Ew.

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It was at that point that Matt went to get his mask.

Knocking out the tile in the shower was a quick and fairly easy process with the help of his handy Wonder Bar.  He popped them off, right into the tub.

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Next up was removing the drywall surrounding the tub. We removed the drywall because some of it had water damage and none of it was the moisture resistant green board that we wanted behind the new shower.  Once the drywall was removed, we discovered some moldy insulation. Bummer.

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We’re 98% certain that this is a result of the previous owners waiting WAY too long to get the original roof replaced. Matt still has to check up in the attic to investigate causes.

Next up, bathtub removal.

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It took a little bit of effort and the use of a wheely cart, but Matt and I did manage to roll this heavy, gross tub out onto the curb for the whole neighborhood to see.  Unfortunately, since I was busy holding the tub and yelling at Matt to stop making me wheel the dang tub down the curb, I don’t have any pictures. Classy times.

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Now, since there was visible black mold, we did take precautions. We kept the door closed to the bathroom at all times with a towel covering the crack at the bottom. Matt wore a mask and gloves for most of the process and we kept the tiny window open as much as possible (even though it dropped to the FREEZING temperatures of the mid 60′s over the weekend.) :)

Our next problem was getting rid of the mold. After a bit of research, Matt purchased Mold Control from Home Depot

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and a mold mask. Gotta keep those lungs healthy.

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He followed the directions on the bottle and doused the mold with the killer. The only problem is that the killer doesn’t actually change the color of the mold. So Matt will go back over it with bleach water to remove it visually and give us peace of mind.

Mold Man, ready for action.

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Check back later this week for Demo Part 2, including pink tile removal. How exciting!