Thursday, July 31, 2014

Day 11: The Beginning (My Own Transformation THURSday)

In the second picture, I had to leave my smile. It's big for a reason.
I honestly don't really know how to start this post. I've been weighing how to start it for the last day or two. I don't want to seem like a hypocrite (because I said I wouldn't be posting about dieting or fat-shaming anymore). But here goes.

I hate diets. They never work. I end up feeling disgusted with the process and fall right back into my old habits of drinking too much wine, over-caffeinating to get myself going, and eating all the wrong things - sometimes even more so than before. I'm now 37. I'm not interested in being stick-thin (and I'm not interested in fat-shaming anyone). I AM interested in feeling good about myself and feeling good in my own skin. I want to feel healthy. I want to have energy. I know what feeling good as me feels like. And I was so far from it just two weeks ago that I decided I really need to do something about it. It was high time to stop abusing myself. I was afraid of what might happen to me and my health if I didn't.

I saw on Facebook over the last six months several close friends of mine who had had success with this program called Advocare, especially their 24-day Challenge. Initially, I was skeptical. At first, it sounded like just another diet program. But they all kept saying that it was a lifestyle change, and the all kept going on about how much better they felt in general. And I thought, if they all feel this good (and look great - honestly, they seemed like they were glowing; their skin and faces looked different), it's worth a shot.

I ordered the 10-day cleanse (skeptic that I am;)). By day 2, I knew I wanted to continue with the whole 24-days and that I wanted to represent the company. It was that simple. I haven't felt this good in a long, long time. I haven't slept this well in ages (I've been going to bed at 10 pm and getting up refreshed in the morning; for anyone who really knows me, they know that this is craziness;)). I really don't miss the wine (except on Friday night;); again, sheer craziness). I've lost 7 pounds in my first 10 days and 6 inches (3 of those in my waist and 1.5 in my hips). But it's really not about the weight. It's about feeling better and being the best me I can possibly be, physically and mentally.

I'll let you know how I'm feeling after I finish the whole 24 days. If this is something you feel like you would be interested in, message me on Facebook (or at my personal Facebook if you know me well;)). The next challenge starts in September (right after Labor Day and back to school - what better time to focus on yourself and reset your goals??). And there are so many online and in-person resources to help you be successful (recipes, advice, workout ideas, and more). Plus, I'll be there to cheer you on. Here's to a healthier us:)). J


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Chalkboard Backsplashes and Turquoise Countertops

My house is kind of like Augustus Waters's house in The Fault in Our Stars. There are little mantras everywhere. I can't help myself. I like words. I like words in frames, engraved on wood, etc. And I like changing it up a lot, which is when chalkboard paint comes in handy.

So, my kitchen. Well, I don't love it, especially the turquoise countertops. I don't mind the cabinetry; they are sturdy Kitchenaide cabinets (I'm not sure if they are original to the house, but they are old; I think the may have been added sometime in the 1950s, and our house was built in 1933. I wish I had pictures of the original kitchen; I'd try to recreate it as much as possible, a la Nicole Curtis:((). I don't mind the wall color, because I picked it. But I am really not a fan of the turquoise countertops. I get that turquoise is an "in" color right now; I just don't think that turquoise is a color meant for the workspace in one's kitchen.

Here's what the kitchen originally looked like, to give you a sense of how the turquoise counters fit into the original decorating scheme.

Sorry about the quality of the picture. It's the only one I have laying around (from the original sales flyer for the house). Again, some of the cabinetry was wallpapered, on the sides and certain accents. The wallpaper also had bonnets and flowers on it.
I had originally just painted the backsplash green, like the rest of the walls. But lately, I've been wanting something different, an accent for the backsplash, and we just don't have the money right now to spend large amounts on tile, etc. I did, however, have a small can of chalkboard paint to tide me over. Here's how they turned out. I like them for now.

Points if you can find the Swedish Chef.

Here's what I am tackling this morning. Stay tuned for updates! A/J

#creepybasement #dancestudio #mancave #paneling #morelinoleum #lastremodeledin1975

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Can I paint an old linoleum floor? Yes. Yes, you can.

The only room in our entire house that is exactly as it was when we moved in, other than the basement/laundry room (which I am beginning work on this week), is the powder room on the main floor. I rather like the kitschy red voile wallpaper, contained in this space anyhow (this wallpaper, in blue, also covered every square inch of our rather large bedroom, which was really UNrelaxing).

The floor, however, was another story.

We have removed almost all of the other carpet/linoleum offenders and refinished the original oak floors (I really do not understand why one would cover beautiful red oak floors in excellent condition with LINOLEUM). But the floor in the powder room remains. And it is awful.

The former owners were very thorough. They even wallpapered doors and cabinets to provide just the right accent.

I imagine at some point that the stripes in this floor were probably white. Which is just soooo gross.
So, I had the bright idea to paint the floor. I originally considered deck paint, especially after researching the process online (this site in particular provides a really good overview of how to go about painting linoleum in a laundry room, which I am going to try a version of in our laundry room at some point this year). But then I found a can of black enamel paint laying around and I thought, if this doesn't work, it will be the perfect excuse to rip that damned floor out.

I followed the other steps of sanding, cleaning, etc. in the post above.

Hurrah for palm sanders. And tiny sanding jobs.
But when it came time to prime/paint, I just painted the floor with the enamel paint. And waited to see just what would happen. And waited. And waited. Enamel paint takes fooooooreeeeeeveeeer to dry. And climbing the stairs every time your three-year-old has to go to the bathroom is not fun.

What happened? Well, let's just say I was very happy with the results.

Forgive me, the towel isn't straight. BUT, the floor looks so fresh and so clean post-painting.

I had to share my little $4 Dollar General rug that I think is super-cute too.
This floor isn't in a high-traffic area, but the paint has now been down over a month and there is not a chip or scratch to be seen. My final two cents: If it's a linoleum floor that has you at your wits end, is super-ugly, and will at some point be ripped out anyway, experiment and paint the hell out of that thing. What is there to lose? And enamel? It works just great. A/J

Monday, July 21, 2014

Instant Refresh: Painting the Front Door

Painting Project 1: More to come this week:)!!
This post, well, let's just say it's not rocket science. Every home d├ęcor magazine you read, at some point, has rejoiced in the refreshing potential of a repainted front door. But I never truly realized how quick, cheap, and easy this project could be. All it took was one little can of mistinted paint on sale, a morning, and a brush.

The original: plain-old, boring-old white. Before painting, remove any hardware that you can (the knocker, for example) and tape off any glass.

I love to browse the mistint sale racks at Lowe's for cheap paint. If you're looking for paint for a small, simple project and you know you will never need that paint again, it's a great way to get paint at half the price (sometimes more). PS, I had enough paint in this can for two coats on the front door and the planters ... and then some. What else can I paint blue??
Here's the new door from the interior (I hate our ugly storm-door. One of these days it will be replaced with something more aesthetically appealing).
If you're looking for a quick and easy way to pep up the curb appeal of your home, this is certainly it. I'm already thinking about what color I will choose next year;). I don't think my husband will go with the pantone lilac:(. A/J

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The #FabFitFun Summer VIP Box (+ a #couponcode for Owl's Skull Followers)

Recently, I learned about the Fab.Fit.Fun VIP box. I already have a monthly Birchbox subscription (which I love - I like getting new surprises in the mail every month), so I decided to check it out.

Here's the deal, in general: Every three months, VIP members look forward to a new seasonal gift box filled with items hand-picked by the Fab.Fit.Fun team. With a VIP membership, every season you get a box full of full-sized fashion, beauty, lifestyle, and fitness products worth $200+ for only $49.99, four times a year (one blogger whose post I checked out received $241.47 worth of products for $49.99 in the Spring Box, including some very cool sunglasses and Purlisse lip gloss. That seems like a score to me). The box is designed to give readers a taste of the latest fashion finds, glam beauty secrets, and fitness gear.

Every summer VIP box, for example, will include a $95 full-sized Flash Facial from skin-care expert Sonya Dakur, PLUS a slew of other finds (note: this product alone is double the cost of the Summer Box). I received a sample of the Flash Facial to try, and I adore it. Designed as a one-minute facial (one that Allure magazine named a "Product that Will Give You Better Skin Instantly"), the Flash Facial smells amazing, plus you can feel it working the moment you put it on. My skin looked more radiant and youthful after one use, so I give it a thumbs up.

The other item Fab.Fit.Fun has revealed as part of the Summer Box is the Thursday Friday Make-Up Clutch (see below; I love the designs!!). You can read more about the bags here.

If you are interested in the Fab.Fit.Fun subscription box, you can sign up by following this link. Be sure to enter the following coupon code at check out to get $5 off of the Summer VIP Box: owlskull5. Let us know what you think when yours comes in if you decide to order!! A/J

*I received the Flash Facial as a product to try before promoting the Fab.Fit.Fun box.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

It's NOT Just a Dog! Blog Tour and #Giveaway

Welcome to The Owl's Skull, a stop on the It's NOT Just a Dog! blog tour. We'll offer you a little bit of information about the book, tell you why it's a fun read for both you and your kids, and then send you over to the main website for the tour so that you can enter the amazing giveaway going on there. First things first, however - a little about the book.

Available on Amazon

ISBN: 978-0615858326
Publisher: Legacy Media Press
No. Pages: 268
Middle Grade

About The Book: In the second book of the Project Madison series, things get complicated as Madison and Cooper try to navigate their new relationship. School has ended and they're spending more time together, blogging, working at the kennel, training dogs—including Lilly. 

When Jonah, the new neighbor who has moved into Paige's old house, begins to spend more time with Madison, Cooper isn't at all happy. Jonah's uncle, a Native American, shares his knowledge about Madison's power to see and feel canine memories and emotions. The mysterious white wolf returns and fills her mind with dreams and more questions. Madison starts a dog-walking business and discovers Ben, a crotchety old man whose dog is skin and bones. 

When the kennel receives a dog that has been brutally injured, Madison is determined to find out what happened. She and Cooper realize they're going to need Jonah and Donald to bust this investigation wide open and save the dogs. But getting to the bottom of the mystery will threaten not only Madison, but everyone she loves.

Early Review:  "Torres's style is lighthearted, with a lovely sense of humor, and the references to internet and social media (her hashtags explaining her feelings were whimsical) will resonate with young readers, as well. There are also some interesting insights on the 'noise' that all of these distractions create, resulting in a barrier between humans and animals, which is expressed in a believable fashion by one of the Native American characters. Torres's descriptions are vivid and help put the reader right into the scenes." —Award winning author, Margo Sorenson 

Our Review: I really liked the emphasis on children and their connections with the animals in their lives, as well as the difficulties of negotiating friendships between those old and young. My daughter Maggie (age 9) was also drawn into the world presented, as she found the characters and the language they speak identifiable and amusing.

Be sure to swing by the main tour website to enter the giveaway, which you can learn more about below. Have a great and happy Wednesday!  A/J

Prize Packages
Grand Prize- Set of illustrations signed by the illustrators, set of bookmarks, official Netta recipe card with biscuit mold, full set of magnets, set of stickers, signed hard copies of both books in the series, and a dream catcher.

First Prize- 3 illustrations signed by the illustrators, bookmarks, official Netta recipe card with biscuit mold, full set of magnets, set of stickers, hard copies of both books in the series.

Second Prize- 2 illustrations signed by the illustrators, bookmarks, official Netta recipe card with biscuit mold, full set of magnets, set of stickers, signed hard copies of both books in the series.

Third Prize- 2 illustrations signed by the illustrators, official Netta recipe card with biscuit mold, bookmarks, magnets, stickers, signed hard copies of both books in the series.

Swag Packages- One 5x7 signed illustration, bookmarks, magnets, stickers, an ebook in the format of your choice.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

10 Books to Celebrate Dads on Father's Day

Father's Day is just around the corner. And it can be a challenge to find good children's books that present admirable fathers (many find children either abandoned, orphaned, or concentrate on the mother/child relationship). Here are 10 books/book series to share with your kids that celebrate good fathers - Dads who make their children think, hold them accountable, and teach them valuable lessons.

#1: To Kill a Mockingbird. Need I say more about Atticus Finch? I would argue that there never was a literary father with more wisdom.
#2: Mothers don't come off so well in this little tome from Neil Gaiman (which I've written about here), but Coraline's real father is an admirable character, with a very important lesson to teach about bravery.
#3: Hans Hubermann, in The Book Thief, is a seemingly simple, but complicated man, who cares for his "daughter" Liesel deeply. I've written more about why you should read this amazing book here.
#4: It may just be me, but I always loved the goofy, blundering Papa Bear in the Berenstain Bears books. He always seemed to teach his lessons by doing the absolutely wrong thing in the most spectacular fashion. Also, look at the sly dog looking at his wife. I wonder what they're thinking;)?
#5: As many of us know, fathers aren't always in the picture, for a variety of reasons. One thing that I like about the Harry Potter books is that there are many strong male role models in the books who share the role of father in Harry's life: Mr. Weasley, Dumbledore, Sirius, Hagrid, even Snape by the end of the series. These are a good choice for a child who may find himself/herself in a position like Harry's, bereft of a father and in need of someone to look up to.  
#6: I'll always remember this book, in which Ramona Quimby's father loses his job and she tries to help him out. I think what I love most of all is that they learn from one another:).  
#7: At one point in my childhood, I wanted Pa Ingalls to be my father. I wanted him to hold me up in the moonlight to see the ring of wolves. I wanted to fall asleep listening to him softly playing his music into the night. Pa Ingalls was a rock, who never seemed to waver.
#8: Relationships between children and their fathers are not always easy. This book shows that in meaningful ways, especially with regard to Meg and her discoveries about her father.
#9: Technically, he's a grandfather, but Charlie's Grandpa Joe is still one of my favorite fatherly figures in children's books.
#10: I'll read just about anything that Jane Yolen writes. And this book is delightful, about a girl and her father's adventure owling.