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i want to do more

The list, if you let me start it, will roll out slowly, tentatively at first, as if testing the waters between us. It will watch for your shrug or your sigh, for you to politely cut me off with a statement of dismissal, or forcefully drive your point into its stream before it gathers momentum.

But if you are feeling gracious and let me ramble, it will pick up speed. You may have thought you knew just what I would say, but I would surprise you. It’s all there, just under the surface. The expected and the norm-shattering, together.

Each morning I rise and wonder if this is the day the dam breaks. The sides of the sandcastle begin to shear off and slide into the center pool, dissolving, despite the incessant pack-pack-packing the foundation into compliance, sturdy and steady and sticking.

I long to test it somewhere safe, to see how bad the flood is. I don’t know where that is, but I’m searching.

salad for breakfast

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A few months ago we took F to see a GI specialist. She was having some odd symptoms that we were trying to get to the bottom of, and one of the things that we discussed was briefly eliminating certain foods and then slowly reintroducing them back to her. I’m not going to get into the details here, but the process was really successful for her. I liked her doctor, and during our two visits with her I also briefly discussed some of the more serious issues I had as a child and teenager and younger adult. Turns out that Dr. GI and I lived parallel lives during those years.

I charted F’s food intake for two months (which seemed like an eternity), and I took the spreadsheet with us to one of the appointments. It was seriously the most annoying task I’ve ever done – it doesn’t seem like it should be that hard, but it really was. I would input her school menu and then edit it once I talked to her about what she had actually eaten. I would email M to see what he gave the girls after school. I’d scour back through my menus if I missed a day of recording. I practically threw the chart at the doctor I was so sick of it, but then she looked at it in amazement and gave me a legit mother of the year award, and so my annoyance disappeared. Plus, my kid eats amazing food, so there might have been a little bit of shameless pride there when the doctor wanted to adopt F’s menu as her own. 

To bring this around to me (as if I hadn’t already), I was really interested in the idea of “resetting” my digestive track and the added perks of increased energy and better sleep really got me thinking. We were going into the month of May which I knew would be a crazy-busy month for me, and I was already doing my very best to keep my head above water. I kept to my workout regime even when I was swamped at work. We continued cooking at home, and I tried to stick to a regular bedtime – more reading, less screen time. June was fast approaching with a pretty large work deadline on the horizon, and I knew that it was going to take a lot more effort to keep everything in balance. So I decided that June might be a good time to dive into a low-FODMAP diet for the month as the doctor had recommended. 

This seems counter-intuitive – tackling a big lifestyle change during a busy, stressful time – but for me it made sense. Working longer hours at a higher level of stress would have certainly led to poorer food choices for me. Cutting those options out completely seemed like a way to ensure that I was fighting off stress in every way possible. The girls were out of town with grandparents that last week of May, and so it gave me a few days to do the research and get a plan in place. I opted to do the Whole 30, which is really about the same as the low-FODMAP diet, just marketed better. (I liked the printout formats!) M was on board, and the girls also went along for the ride, although they did not have the full restrictions on them. That meant that I helped make camp lunches and couldn’t lick the peanut butter off the knife (no legumes!), we stopped for ice cream after a hot soccer game and I ate an apple (no dairy!), and I even made two desserts for June office birthdays where I had to farm out the taste testing to family members (no sugar!). 

I shared this eating plan with my immediate family and maybe two other people. We spent the weekend with my family, and I didn’t even mention it. We went out to breakfast one morning, and I ordered eggs and sliced tomatoes while everyone else had pancakes. I missed having a glass of wine while making dinner (no alchohol!), and ordered sparkling water with a lime when dining out with friends. I ordered a salad with oil and vinegar (no pizza!) I lucked out at another dinner party with the menu quite by accident – the food was delicious and compliant! I did miss eating that night’s dessert, and sipping water while others drank cocktails was a bit of a drag. But thirty days isn’t forever, and after about a week I really starting to feel amazing. I was sleeping well, and not dragging at work, even when I was working 50+ hours a week. Two weeks in I upped my caloric content some – I had noticed I was really dropping weight which I was trying not to do. I had more energy on my runs, and my workouts were more enjoyable. Even in the more stressful moments of that month (and there were several), I felt even keeled and calm. It was working.

On July 1st we flew out of town on vacation, and I was done with the thirty days. I still stuck to the premise of eating whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible while we were gone, although I did have a few mojitos and ate some ice cream on the trip. And tacos (welcome back gluten!) But I’ve decided to ditch the oatmeal at breakfast completely; I’ve converted to a breakfast salad eater, with eggs or avocados or some other type of healthy fat. Even at a birthday brunch yesterday with F, I couldn’t bring myself to order crepes, I stuck with two over-medium eggs and some arugula tossed in oil and vinegar. It was delicious. My sweet tooth is in hiding still, although I will still occasionally eat really good ice cream or a slice of dessert in celebration. And fruit is sweet – and really what I crave most days anyway. Choosing to eat this way is certainly a privilege. It’s not inexpensive – processed foods are almost always cheaper. But in thirty days I only ate at a restaurant five times – and those were always necessary because of travel and one dinner date with out of town friends. Not eating out – even those inexpensive treats here and there add up, so that helped to offset my increased produce bill.

I don’t want to give up eating food and enjoying it – but I’m even more convinced to make that a choice for pleasure, not for convenience. 

I’ll be completely honest with you here – I’ve always thought of myself as anti-diet, or at least anti-extreme anything related to food. I’m in camp moderation – eat good food at a reasonable rate and enjoy it. I’m married to someone with an extreme diet – although being a vegetarian doesn’t seem overly radical to me, it’s still means not eating a lot of things. I can appreciate eating very little meat, but I have no desire to eliminate it completely from my own diet. Whole 30 actually forced me to eat more meat, so it’s nice to be able to consume non-meat forms of protein again now that I am done. I missed beans and grains. And pasta. 

Would I recommend this to others? 100% yes. I’d also recommend doing it in the summer first – when produce is in abundance and feels like a treat already. Doing this in January to try and lose weight or break bad holiday habits sounds miserable. I treated it from Day 1 as an opportunity to eat delicious food, not as a restriction of other foods. Days 3-7 sort of suck, but stick it out. By the second week you will feel like you can conquer the world. 

If anything, it’s reinforced my pledge to eat as well as I am able as often as I am able. There are many things that are out of my control, but I can choose how to fuel myself for the ride. If you’ve ever done a similar diet reset, I’d love to hear how it went for you. For someone who puts a lot of effort into preparing and eating good food, I still learned a whole lot about how my body responds to it. 

paint blues, then success

I haven’t been able to keep up with my goal of writing every day, but I’m enjoying the gentle nudge to write more frequently than I had been writing in April and May. Sometimes I think that it might be nice to have a physical journal to write in – I often think about things I’d like to write down when I’m nowhere near a computer to do so. Longhand writing is something I rarely do anymore, but I love to go back and read my travel journals still today.

These summer days have been busy but they feel different, which is nice. It’s something I needed after the month of May. It’s felt good to jump into a physical project for a change, to get out of the computer on some evenings, and even to stay up late with a paintbrush in a sleeping house.

Speaking of paint – I thought I’d write a little bit about the paint drama that almost took me down a few weekends ago. Now that we’re on the flip side of that, I can talk about it without triggering feelings of despair and exhaustion.

We’ve planned to paint the wainscoting in the bathroom a deep indigo blue for ages now. Here were my five inspiration photos for color:

melanie acevedo dark bathroom stand alone tub

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melanie acevedo dark blue bedroom

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eclectic-

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indigo-blue-wall-white-couch

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ashely-putman-blue-room

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Before we even installed the wainscoting, I sampled some colors on the walls. That was my first hint that deep blues are HARD! I had some really lovely swatches, but once they went on the walls they looked so bright. I broadened my range a bit, and sampled three more colors – too dark, too navy, too teal. Then I bought some spray paint for a different project and really loved the color of the frames I painted. I decided to custom color match the spray paint and I purchased a sample pot of that paint.

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When I had the paint matched, they sprayed some of the paint on the end of a wooden stir stick, dried it with a hair dryer, and then color matched it from that. The sample paint looked great on the walls, so I thought we had found the perfect one. We finished the wainscoting, patched, sanded, caulked and caulked and caulked – there is roughly 600 linear feet of caulk in the room – and then primed.

M took the sample pot to the store and ordered a gallon of “real” paint, and he started on the long wall, cutting in and painting for hours.

Two things – the blue was pretty, but really, really dark the longer it dried and the more area we covered. Plus, the paint was also really, really annoying to work with. On a nice blank wall with a roller it would have probably been fine. But painting in a dark color with a slight sheen (matte or eggshell) was nearly impossible – the paint dried so quickly that brush strokes were really obvious everywhere. We decided to do a second coat on that wall to determine if we liked the color, because coverage is important on dark colors.

A few bays into the second coat, M threw in the towel and refused to use that paint anymore. It was just too thick and difficult to work with for brush work.

Round two – he tried a different paint that would brush on better, but they couldn’t use the formula from the first can to match it. So he went back again with one of the frames I had painted. The color looked okay when they dabbed a bit on the lid and dried it with a hairdryer, but I started painting with it on a Friday night, and after seven hours of painting and drying, we admitted it was not a match. But it wasn’t an awful color – maybe it just needed more coverage! We gave it another coat, but no dice. It was dark, and a little bit teal, and just not right. Again, if these had been straightforward walls with rolled on paint, it wouldn’t have been such a big deal. But cutting in for hours and hours and hours, and painting behind a freestanding tub and installed toilet and pedestal sink is NO FUN. Especially when you finish a coat and step back and it’s just so very wrong.

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Not the right paint.

It was wrong at one o’clock in the morning, but it was really wrong the next morning with the sun streaming in. We held up new swatches against the painted walls and realized that it was now so much easier to see the “right” color against the wrong one. M wisely got us all out of the house to the market, then the circus. Refreshed with some Ted Drewes and some perspective, we headed back to the paint store with a new swatch. Screw the custom colors. We went with BM’s Gentleman’s Gray. The following photos are all taken with my phone, and at various hours of the day and night, so the color rendition isn’t so great, but I’ll take some good photos when we’re all done.

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Mind you, between every coat we sanded every square inch of wainscoting and then vacuumed the dust and wiped everything down before painting the next coat. Then we both painted on opposite walls – I got the short straw and had to do the areas behind all the fixtures because I have a foot less in height to bend and contort.

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(Side note: this angled brush with flexible short handle is awesome for tight spaces!)

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We collectively have untold hours of painting in this room behind us, and the end result is nothing short of gorgeous. We got it right. Finally.

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Since then, I’ve painted four coats of paint on the underside of the tub and we’ve removed all the blue painters tape. The upper walls and ceiling are just perfection – crisp white and lovely.

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We have new recessed LED lights and they look great in the ceiling. M’s sanding and repainting the ceiling grilles to get them nice and white and refreshed in there. We still have to paint one coat of trim paint on all the remaining white trim – around the door and the window. The window needs a little love as well, and some paint. But then our painting days (in here) will be done for awhile. Which means our project pile in our bedroom is dwindling. Hooray! Hooray!

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