Thursday, October 24, 2013

Project Lifestyle - Getting back on track.



I don't make it a secret that I take my summers "off" from dieting. I don't typically go crazy, I just relax and stop calorie counting and meal planning for a little while.

This year, I did go a little crazy. The fact that I could eat dairy while in Iceland caused me to gain 5 lbs in those two weeks alone. (I really, really like Ice cream and chocolate cake). Compound that by the fact that I was travelling for work before and after Iceland, and a little weight gain can be expected. But the problem is, I didn't right myself when I got back. I figured 'Okay, it's almost September. I'll diet again in September.'

September has come and gone, and I still haven't dieted. It isn't as though I haven't tried... I even when so far as to plan out the first week of a new meal plan, and buy the groceries for it. Problem is, somehow we have gotten even more busy in the evenings this year than last year. Gilles is playing for two hockey teams this year instead of one, I am working a new job with 10 hours days (less one day a week), and Gilles has a new job where he isn't home until 6:45! Combine that with the fact that we were still taking dance classes and I was still running 3x/week... Well, I tried. I didn't make a single one of the recipes, and back to Kraft Dinner and frozen pizzas it was. (They're fast!)

I stepped on the scale yesterday and it read 193.4!! When I was at my lowest before summer, I weight 176.4. In other words, over the summer I gained almost 20 lbs. Yikes.

Stepping back to analyze the situation, I quickly realized that in compensating for our busy lifestyle I had fallen into old habits (re: processed food) in order to be able to make 'home-cooked' meals. I know that I don't have extra time during my work week to modify this habit, so it is time to make a new one. Enter Operation Freeze.

Okay, not this Operation Freeze.

My version of Operation Freeze is simple, and will be in effect immediately.

First, I premake healthy, portion controlled meals. This is done on weekends, when I have some extra time. I then freeze each portion individually, so that it may be pulled out of the freezer for supper at any time. There are lots of great resources online for healthy premade meals, including:
- thekitchn.com
- onceamonthmeals.com
- joelandkitty.com
- erecipecards.blogspot.ca
- thislady'shouse.com
- ringaroundtherosies.net

I have purchased a white board to hang on the wall beside the freezers. On this white board, I have attached a marker and an eraser. I will use this board to keep an updated list of premade meals available in the freezer, and how many portions are available.

I'm doing the first of my "freezer cooking" this weekend... my goal is to have four large batch meals completed, so that we have one new meal to try for each worknight next week.

Stay tuned for a new post, with the results of the weekends cooking!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Project: Raised Flower Bed

Almost immediately after it became apparent that I couldn't keep my flower beds in front of the house (See Project: Water-wise Landscaping), I decided that I wanted a new flowerbed, in the front corner of our yard. Many of the homes on our block had taken a similar approach to their flowerbeds, moving them from the foundation out toward the street. It was easy to get Gilles on board with the idea of moving it, especially as we were redoing the lawn. What wasn't quite as easy to convince was my web-inspired "Oh, and I want it raised 2 feet".

At this point in time I had seen many pictures online of beautiful, raised flowerbeds that showcased the flowers in an obvious but sophisticated manner. I was thrilled at the idea that one of these beauties could be mine.

 

 
Upon realizing the scope of my project, my husband informed me that we would have to wait until spring to complete it. I was disappointed, but no matter. I was going to get my flower bed.
The delay to spring lasted about a week. My father-in-law decided that it would make more sense to build the flower bed immediately, instead of waiting. As he was essentially the 'project landscape' foreman, we could hardly argue. Inside I was singing.

I started by measuring out the approximate dimensions, and deciding what kind of brick we wanted. We ended up going with EasyStack by Cindercrete, in grey. I then went to the closest local distributor to figure out how much I needed. Note: When we did this, the distributor quoted us for 4 full rounds plus the capstones. As the yard is slanted, in order to put four full rounds and have a level top, we would have to bury the first three rounds in the ground. Instead, we staggered the lower layers in a manner that looks as though they are going under the ground, but didn't force us to 'bury our money'.
Here is the first load of bricks that we brought home, of four:
 
Once we managed to finish bringing home all the brick, we started playing with it to see how the end product would work. (I admit, I wasn't actually here for this step. I was in Regina running the Queen City Half Marathon. Before I left I showed Gilles and his dad the shape I wanted the bed to take, and they were just finishing this step when I arrived home. 
 
 
It may not look like much yet at this point, but for me it was the first time that I could truly see what it would look like finished.
 
I wasn't a lot of help after this point - I mostly just brought brick and supplies while Gilles and his dad did the rest of the work. They did a great job. It isn't visible in this picture, but not only did they size the brick so that it would work out perfectly, they also included a pipe underneath the flowerbed so that in the future I could get sprinklers added in.


 
 
The gentleman who sold me the brick at the distributor told us that we would not have to cut any brick. Unfortunately this didn't end up being the case; we needed to cut one brick per layer to make the pattern fit properly. Luckily this didn't cause us any problems.
 


The only place we used adhesive on the lower layers was on the cornerstones - the rest of the bricks had little nubs that fit into grooves on the next layer, allowing easy stacking and more importantly, ease of removal if ever necessary. Every brick was carefully leveled as well.  We did use a thin layer of adhesive on the top layer, deciding that it was worth not having the bricks moving. The only drawback of this is that if we do end up needing to dismantle a portion of the flower bed for any reason, the bricks with adhesive on them may have to be replaced.


The completed flower bed is a beautiful sight, isn't it? The pile of dirt behind us is of 9 cubic yards - we used it between the houses to increase the ground height and add a "trough" and slope to promote watershed. Oh, and we also filled the flower bed with it :)

What do you think? Is there anything you would have done differently? Have you made similar projects? I'd love to hear your thoughts.