floors and walls

It’s been a couple weeks since I talked about the house. Al and I needed a little break from weekends filled with Lowe’s trips and physical labor. Now that we’re a bit refreshed, we’ve both started on new projects.

Way back in February I wrote a post about a DIY privacy window. I had to paint the crazy red trim as well as the window. Finally, this past weekend, I had the urge to paint the rest of the red trim as well as the walls.

Since that last window project, we’ve put in all new energy-efficient windows throughout the whole house so I won’t have to paint the entire window this time around. <- I’m so glad!

This weekend, all I did was prep the room for painting.

Do you know how difficult it is to take border wallpaper down?! In the beginning I didn’t score the paper enough so the pieces coming off were tiny. I wanted to cry.

I finally got a better system down and yelled out things like, ‘Yeah baby!’ or ‘Aww yeeeah!’ when I got a big piece to come off. Note that I had no audience to hear my cheers. It’s the little things in life.

After about 5 total hours of removing wall paper, I spackled all the holes and wiped down the walls.

Do you see the difference in the wall color that was behind the paper and the wall below it? That’s after I wiped down the walls! Nasty.

I don’t have any more progress for my project but I do have the paint already!

If you’re a cheapo like me, you regularly check the sale sections in whatever store you happen to be in… just in case. At Lowe’s for me these sections include rugs, gardening, and painting. In the painting department sometimes they have a shelf full of mistakes and returned gallons so I almost always check to see if they have any colors that I’d like.

On Friday I lucked out big time with a neutral light gray. A paint & primer combo for 5 bucks!

I’m hoping to work on painting everything this week so we can actually open our dressers drawers again. All the furniture is squished in the middle of the room. 🙂

———-

Unlike my small progress, Al has done a ton of  backbreaking work! He is in the middle of installing bamboo floors in the lower level of the house which includes the office/dog room, a hallway, and the big den.

The rest of the house has woods floors while this lower level has linoleum wood grain tiles so we wanted to update the area to make it more cohesive.

We chose bamboo because it’s very durable and ‘greener’ than regular woods floors. Compared to wood it grows much faster because bamboo is a grass not a wood. It also reaches maturity in 5 years and when harvested the root source is left in tack so the bamboo can grow back. (source)

It’s also about the same price as regular wood floors so it was an easy choice for me!

At the moment, Al has finished the office and the hallway. Next weekend he hopes to complete the den.

Then it’s on to wood putty and more painting. If we ever finish painting this house, it’ll be a miracle!

Check back next week for what I hope is a recap and ‘after’ photos of both projects!

Have you ever laid your own floors? It’s tough! I’m so proud of Al for sticking with it.

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an end to the summer season

The end of the summer means a lot of different things to me but right now I’m thinking about my garden. My summer crop is growing crazy still because I planted everything late but I’m already supposed to have my winter crop in! I don’t think it matters much as long as I get it in soon, like next weekend soon.

I learned a ton from my first summer season. Even will all the mistakes learning experiences, I had a pretty great crop. I’m hoping that means my winter garden will be just as good if not better!

If you haven’t read any of the garden posts yet, here a recap. -> I started off with most of my plants in the greenhouse where they struggled from the lack of light. I then moved the dying plants to a spot on the side of my house. I knew they still wouldn’t get the 8 hours or more of sun that they needed but I was hopeful!  And finally when I realized they weren’t dying (!), I spiffed up the outdoor garden with supports, mulch, and a drip system.

With all that progress, I got a lot in return.

I have 5 tomatoes plants which have given me well over 100 little tomatoes and counting. At one point I got over 50 in one week! I’ve used this recipe three times now. I’ve even experimented! I love a sweet sauce so I skipped the garlic, added two green peppers from the garden, and two tablespoons of sugar. It’s so good!

A couple days ago I found a behemoth. Look at this giant zucchini! You would have thought I won the lottery by the way I was dancing around with my ‘trophy’.

I’d only seen one other rotted zucchini before this one so I didn’t think I’d be getting anything edible. I was collecting tomatoes for sauce when I spotted it.

I’ve heard that they can get too tough and ‘seedy’ when they get too big but I sliced up half of it and made zucchini crisps. Cheesy and delicious.

With all this great crop, I still have some issues that I need to figure out. My peppers have a bug problem. I’ve been able to rescue some but the plants look pretty sad. I haven’t done anything to prevent bugs so I need to do a little research for my winter crop.

You can see in the photo below that some of the leaves are eaten away. Meh, I don’t like bugs!

I also still have that lack of sunlight problem. Look at what this tomato plant did! It grew up and over the fence all the way to the ground on the other side looking for sun. Poor thing.

I know the winter vegetables don’t need as much sunlight so hopefully it won’t be a problem this time around.

As you can see from the photos above and below even though they’re still producing, the tomato and bean plants are ready to go. I was hesitant a month ago to rip them up because they were still going strong but now that they’re a bit weathered so I know it’s time for new, winter vegetables.

This coming weekend I’m hoping to add in some broccoli, cauliflower, and leafy greens.

Tending to my garden is so fun to me. I’m learning a lot which I love and I get food in return! Such a great hobby. I’m excited to try new recipes with the crop too! I’m thinking soup and more soup. 🙂

What are you growing in your winter garden?

a series of unfortunate (running) events

Where to start.

My weekly long(est) run started out on Saturday morning at 6:30 am. I was up early because I was good and went to bed at a decent time. I opened up the weekly Marathon Training Team email and realized that we were supposed to run that same day at that exact time instead of Sunday like normal.

Crap.

Now, Al and I will have to run on Sunday by ourselves without the distraction of friends and the downtown Richmond architecture.

Hurricane Isaac (or Tropical Storm by that time?) was supposed to dump a ton of rain all weekend so I made sure I had my hat on to keep the water out of my face. I was excited about a potential downpour. Somehow it always feels childlike and silly to be running in the rain, so to me it’s fun. 🙂

We started off running and instantly realized that the humidity was awful, like I’m breathing through a straw awful. I could’t wait for that rain to come… but it never did.

I was holding my water bottle in one hand and didn’t want to occupy my other with my hat so I kept it on my head. Wearing a hat when it’s not raining makes me feel overheated. I was sweating to death but kept on.

In hopes of not getting bored, we went on a new-to-us route. Between miles 2 and 3 the humidity made me feel like I could barely lift my feet. With lead in my legs, a new sidewalk, and a cloudy morning, I tripped and fell to the ground. I laid there for a second from the shock. While getting up and brushing grass and dirt from my multiple wounds I said to Al, “I have to keep running!” and I did. I’m pretty proud of that because the other two times I’ve fallen during this training, I just stopped and walked home.

It’s embarrassing and a little traumatizing when you fall, I wouldn’t recommend it.

This fall was the worst which makes my fight to keep going even better. My right hand and my poor Garmin were pretty scraped. So was my left thigh and knee.

I have to mention that I was wearing my watch backwards on the inside of my wrist because when it rains I feel like it gets less wet. Who knows if that’s true but if I had known it wasn’t going to rain at all, my Garmin would have been worn like normal and not scuffed. Bah, Humbug!

At around mile 4 some guy driving on the other side of the road honked at us, yelled something, and then flicked us off. How pleasant. At that point I was very glad that Al decided to run at my pace with me even though it’s very slow to him. He was silent most of the time because he wasn’t feeling the run at all but it was nice to have a buddy!

After a hour and 45 minutes we were done.

I felt amazing… and then I noticed all the scrapes. I had planned on walking the dogs with Al but tended to my wounds instead.

I really didn’t mind the cuts but what I did mind was the tiny scrape on my Garmin. That thing is expensive and pretty! Oh well, that’s what it is, just a ‘thing’ right?

Oh and I don’t have my one sleeve rolled up in the photo above because I think I’m a badass, I have it rolled up because I had/have a nice strip of Poison Ivy on my upper arm. I had to use 5 bandaids to cover it up to prevent chaffing or the urge to itch my arm off during the run. Good times.

Let’s just say with the new injuries, the Poison Ivy rash, and the multiple bruises and scrapes from work this week, I look like a hot mess but I couldn’t be more proud. I love my job helping animals, am proud of taking care of my own dogs properly (I got the Poison Ivy while walking them), and even that series of unfortunate events, we still got in a good run.

Have you ever fallen during a run? Please tell me you have.

crispy blackened tofu

I know. That title may sound scary to some of you. Tofu is mushy, slimy, and gross. Or is it?

Meat and I are still on the rocks so I wanted to attempt a new tofu recipe. The first time I tried to cook it it turned out too soggy, the second time was pretty good, and this third time was freakin’ spectacular thanks to Emily over at the Daily Garnish.

To start out I took a block of extra firm tofu, covered it in paper towels, and then stacked a couple of books on top to press out the water. The longer you let it sit, the less mushy it’ll be. I started mine at about noon and cooked the dish at 5.

You can’t see the tofu in this photo but it’s under the cookie sheet! To prevent a soaked countertop, I placed the tofu on top of my cutting board that has a little moat around the edge so that it’d collect any excess water.

Next, I lost my mind for a bit and couldn’t understand how to cut the tofu block properly per Emily’s instructions. This is why I have multiple slabs instead of a couple thin ‘steaks’. Course I got the concept after I did my cutting. Classic.

Then I marinated the pieces in a little bit of soy sauce.

There are lots of spices to this dish but it’s a snap to put together!

Did I mention that Al, my husband, doesn’t enjoy change and/or funky textures in food? I’ve only forced him to eat tofu one other time (the second ‘pretty good’ time I made it) and he didn’t like it. Even with the cards stacked against me I still had hope. I thought, there’s no way he can’t like this! It’s too good! as I shoved another crispy piece in my mouth when I was done.

Whenever I have to make a rub or a coating for a recipe I always end up with extra stuff that I have to throw away. With this recipe, I had absolutely none! The perfect amount of spices for the tofu. A pleasant surprise.

The spices create a great outing coating of what’d I’d call Spicy Asian BBQ. So tasty. You could totally use this as a rub on chicken or beef if you’d like. Or shrimp! That’d be super good. But that’s not really the point, the point is that it’s amazing on tofu, a meat alternative!

Just look at that color.

__________

Crispy Blackened Tofu
(source)

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients (2 servings)

    For the Tofu

    • 1 block firm or extra-firm tofu (drained and pressed)
    • 2 tablespoons soy sauce or Bragg’s liquid aminos
    • 1 tablespoon sesame oil (or other cooking oil)

    For the Spice Blend

    • 2 teaspoons paprika
    • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • 1 teaspoon corn starch
    • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1 teaspoon onion powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
    • 1/4 teaspoon thyme
    • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

    Instructions

    • Start by pressing a block of tofu to drain out the excess water.
    • While the tofu drains, go ahead and make your spice mix. Add all spices to a shallow bowl, and stir to thoroughly combine.
    • Once the tofu has drained, slice the block into four even rectangles – once through the width, and then cutting in half through the top (did that make sense?).
    • Place tofu in a shallow dish and add soy sauce or liquid aminos – it doesn’t need to be much. Just enough to let it soak into the bottom a bit. After a few minutes, flip each piece to coat the other side.
    • In a saute pan, heat sesame oil (or other oil of your choice) over medium high heat – you want your pan to really get hot! I prefer to use my non-stick pans for this, but you can try it in stainless as well.
    • Take each piece of tofu and press it into the spice blend, ensuring to coat the whole bottom in a thick crust of spice. Flip it over and repeat on the other side.
    • Then carefully place each piece into the hot pan – it should sizzle and pop, and you’ll see immediate color forming around the base of the tofu.
    • Add all four pieces to the pan and continue to cook over medium high heat. After only a minute or two, the bottom should be pretty dark in color – flip to the other side!
    • Cook for another minute or two on the other side, until both are crispy and blackened to perfection.
    • Slice and serve on a bed of rice with a side of roasted greens!

    __________

    I served it over brown rice, split peas, tomatoes, and a little soy sauce. Super random but we needed to use up the tomatoes from the garden and I wanted more veggies so I added the peas. It worked out really well!

    Al even admitted that the dish was ‘pretty good’. He said that he wouldn’t eat the tofu alone (he’s crazy) but he’d eat it like I served it. I’ll take what I can get! Thank you Emily for your recipe! I’m so glad it was successful.

    I don’t care if you think you hate tofu. You’ve got to make this dish!

    Do you eat tofu? How to do prepare it?

    patrick henry half marathon

    I ran 13.1 miles this past Saturday. No biggie. (!!!)

    Al and I are officially halfway through our marathon training. We both ran the Patrick Henry Half Marathon successfully without any emergency pit stops, injuries, or giant blisters. It was awesome.

    My morning started out at 2:20 am with major stomach issues. I’m not one to have physical problems when I’m nervous so it must’ve been the bag of Baked Lays I ate for dinner (mistake #1). I took a shot of Pepto and attempted to fall back asleep.

    When the alarm went of at 4:15 I was still in trouble. In between another shot of Pepto and some Imodium I told Al that I didn’t think I’d be able to race. I couldn’t stand let alone run at that point!

    An hour later I felt a bit better and focused on getting out the door. I went to put on my shoes and I realized my favorite running socks as well as one of my running sleeves were gone. I knew it was Olivia so I ran upstairs to the living room where she usually takes her victims and found only my running sleeve. She doesn’t play with toys but what she does do is relocate socks and bras to different parts of the house. It’s not a big deal and is usually pretty cute because she doesn’t destroy the items but at this point I was making us late! I ran to every room of the house and the backyard but couldn’t find the socks so I had to settle for a different pair.

    Superstition and lucky clothing is a big part of sports or at least it was to me growing up so losing my socks kinda stunk. Not too big of a deal but just another bump in the road.

    We finally made it to the race location and went to get our bibs.

    Our names weren’t on the list.

    The lady at check-in asked us if we had a receipt or our bank statement. Of course not lady! We weren’t registered and they only took cash or check so we walked back to our car which was thankfully parked somewhat close at a friend’s house. She told us where the banks were and we headed out to get cash.

    Back at the registration tent with our shirts and bibs, I dropped off our bag and we headed to the porta potties. I had to pee terribly, my stomach still wasn’t settled, and the line was a mile long but we had to at least attempt to relieve ourselves.

    Twenty minutes later we were at the starting line where I found my friends. We were off!

    The first 4 or 5 miles were tough. I was worried about emergency bathroom breaks and my legs felt soooo heavy. The Thursday before, I ran a 3 mile hills workout not knowing that I was supposed to run a regular 3 miles so my legs were tired (mistake #2).

    In the beginning I tried to not stop running at the water stops (mistake #3) but I seriously can’t drink and run at the same time. I usually choke or don’t get enough fluids in when I run so I decided to stop and walk quickly as I chugged. I think this also helped my tired legs loosen up.

    As my legs warmed up and the miles passed, the skies opened and dumped tons of ran. I was so grateful. I almost got too chilly at one point but that sure beats sweating to death in the southern sun!

    I’d been warned about mile 11 with the big hill. I told my running buddy, Tamra that I’d probably be speeding up at that mile to get up and over the hill and finish strong. She encouraged me and was so positive! She has run the race two times before and has already finished two marathons! A great inspiration.

    At the hill we ran into one of our coaches who started telling a dirty joke to help distract us on the incline. It was the perfect motivation to help me speed up and get away! A dirty joke when I’m tired and focused? No gracias.

    My knees had been aching since mile 3 but those last two miles were much worse. Cardio-wise I could have easily sped up to get a better time but my knees were killing me. I could feel that if I ran any faster I’d have a calf, knee, or hip injury on my hands so I stayed steady.

    As I ran down the home stretch I could see the finish line and hear the cheers. A couple girls that I had passed earlier whizzed by me. I thought to myself, I could totally speed up and pass them! But no, this is a training run. I’ve got plenty of time to run more half marathons after the Richmond Marathon is over in November.

    I crossed the finish line and kept walking. My bottom half ached horribly as I grabbed my metal and smiled at the volunteers.

    YES!!

    My official time was 02:18:04 which is about a 10:32 pace. I wanted a 10:30 average so I got pretty close. I was at the back of the pack overall which is okay by me. This was a very fast group of runners! But even with a pretty rocky start, I finished easily and could have gone a couple more miles. A perfect pace for a marathon training run.

    After this run, I’ve learned that you’ve got to prepare as best you can but things will most likely go wrong at some point. Just go with it and conquer.

    The more races I run, the more I learn. By November I’ll have it all down pat.

    Have you run any races recently?

    artwork in the bathroom

    Wow, it’s been a long time since I wrote about the second update to our guest bathroom! We’ve done a couple things since then.

    Now that I had my lighting painted turquoise, my next step was artwork. I went to my stash and picked out anything with similar colors. The following photos are a couple options. I first thought these splatter paintings would go well because they somewhat matched the room colors but I realized it was too busy for the clean look I was going for.

    Then I debated on this piece because of the color again but no, not the right vibe.

    These last two pieces fit juuuust right. They only have a hint of turquoise but they’re simple and add to the new character of the space.

    After choosing my art, I went to Target and looked at shelving. While I was there I remembered I had this old piece that usually hangs horizontally. To fit the space I turned it vertically. It fit perfectly! Perfumes and soap for the guests now had a place to rest. It’s such a nice feeling to reuse stuff that’s just laying around the house. This piece was literally laying on the fireplace step for the last couple weeks with no home.

    Before I had time to hang these pieces up, I went up to NJ to visit family. While I was away, Al got down to business and cranked out a lot of painting. He painted the yucky brown vanity a light turquoise and spray painted the hardware to update it a bit.

    Here’s a little before shot if you’ve forgotten what the room used to look like!

    I thought the new color would work well with the crazy yellow tile and the dark turquoise.

    He also painted all the yellowed trim a crisp white.

    And then I hung up a new shower curtain, the paintings, and the shelving when I got home.

    The paintings were hung on the right side of the vanity so that the shelving and a new towel could fit on the left. It’s a brushed nickel finish from Target that now matches the shower curtain and vanity hardware. I do hope to update the vanity hardware to something more modern soon. I’d also like to spray paint the shelves white but I haven’t gotten to that yet!

    What do you think? It’s still pretty crazy coloring but I think I’ve successfully toned town the yellow tile!

    Thanks Al for all your hard work!

    the body shop

    A long, long while back I wrote a post about the Leaping Bunny program.

    Last Monday, I spent the afternoon in search of new hair care products and makeup. I used the Leaping Bunny App on my phone to help me. It was so useful!

    I set my sights on Ulta thinking they’d have a lot of products on the list but I didn’t find much so I headed on over to The Body Shop. I saw on the App that The Body Shop was listed under every category of product that I needed!

    On my way over I was optimistic that I was going to find my new one stop shop for beauty and skin care products.

    I totally did and then some.

    At The Body Shop I found not only a friendly sales person but a girl who was genuinely excited about the product and the core beliefs of the company. I may be way behind on the times but I had no idea that The Body Shop was so focused on helping others. Such a breath of fresh air!

    A quote from the founder:

    “The business of business should not just be about money, it should be able responsibility. It should be about public good, not private green.”
    -Dame Anita Roddick. Human Rights Activist. Founder of The Body Shop (sourced from the ‘Our Company’ page)

    Not only is the company against animal testing which I’m all about but it has four other core values that are just as great: Support Community Trade, Defend Human Rights, Activate Self-Esteem, and Protect Our Planet.

    I love it.

    Like me, you’re probably very tired of politics so I’ll leave it at that and move on to the awesome product!

    I wanted to buy everything I laid my eyes on but Al would have killed me so I picked up only what I needed which was shampoo, conditioner, and eye shadow.

    With my degrees in graphic design, I’m all about the look of the product! If it looks nice, I want it. A good example of this is wine. Doesn’t everyone buy the bottle just because it’s pretty or is it just me? 🙂

    The packaging at The Body Shop is clean and pretty. It’s not too busy and focuses on explaining the product well.

    Technically I have a lot of hair but it’s also thin so I went with the volumizing shampoo and conditioner. So far my hair really does seem a lot thicker. It also isn’t weighed down and greasy which often happens with other products that I’ve tried.

    Both have nice, floral scents that I totally want as a perfume. Course they may have it! Next time.

    I’ve only used the eye shadows once but they were super smooth and therefore easy to apply. The shimmer looks a bit strong in the case but it’s subtle on the skin.

    After realizing that I loved the store and didn’t want to leave, I joined the rewards program. You get 10% off all your purchases, coupons when your points build up, free shipping online, and a couple of other perks too.

    I promise, The Body Shop has no idea that I’ve written this post! I just had to share my positive experience with you.

    Do you have a favorite store or beauty product?