Tuesday, April 30, 2013

After Work Adventures- Fore River Sanctuary

Thom and I have driven past the trail head for the Fore River Sanctuary countless times, so I suggested that we check it out for our evening walk. The Fore River Sanctuary is a 85 acre preserve around the Fore River and surrounding salt marshes. A two mile hiking trail winds along the river and ends at Jewell Falls, Portland's only naturally occurring waterfall.

Unfortunately, the sun was already rather low in the sky when we arrived at the trail head, so we were only able to explore the first half mile or so of the trail. Spring is definitely not the most ideal time to visit the Fore River Sanctuary, the wetlands were very much so still in their winter slumber mode. We were able to see two pairs of ducks.

With the exception of a bit of a hill to get down into the sanctuary, the hill is for the most part flat, and there are even boardwalks and bridges to get over the muddy areas. Thom was not a fan of the proximity of houses to the park, at times you definitely feel as though you are walking through someone's backyard. I am sure that feeling goes away as the leaves fill in on the trees. The history geek in me really enjoyed the fact that the park is the site of a canal that was used to connect the working waterfront of Portland to Sebago Lake. I was intrigued with the idea of walking on what used to be a horse trail to pull the boats through the canal.

We will definitely be returning to the Fore River Sanctuary, just a bit later in the year when we have more time before sunset and the leaves and grasses have had a chance to fill in. The scenery is pretty, and I want to find the waterfall.

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Monday, April 29, 2013

DIY Curtains

I love curtains. Want to make a room look homey? Hang curtains. There is only one problem with this, commercial vendors have caught on to the big effect a rectangle of fabric can bring to a room, and mark up the price accordingly. I refuse to purchase pre-made curtains, and you should too, they extremely easy to sew, anyone with a sewing machine and the ability to sew in a straight line can do it.

The first thing you need to do is measure your windows. If you live in a newer home, you might be able to get away with only measuring one window. I live in an older building, and I had to measure all of my windows. This is because living room, for example, has four different sized windows. Once everything is measured, you need to determine how long  you want your curtains to be. My living room curtains go the full length of the window and then hang a little below the sill. Despite having four different sized windows, I made all of my curtains the same length to at least give the illusion of identical sized windows.

Now you are ready to determine the size of your curtain panels. For each panel, take the width of your window and add three inches to finish off your edges. Now take the desired length of your curtain and add 5 1/2 inches for the bottom hem and the top pocket that the rod slides through. Each window requires two panels, use these measurements to determine how much fabric you will need, then it is time to visit a fabric store. Curtains require quite a bit of fabric, so be on the watch for sales. I was able to purchase the fabric for my living room and dining room curtains for $1.99/yard. Do not forget to purchase matching thread when you purchase fabric. I have eight panels in my living room and I did not use the entire spool of thread, so one spool should be fine for most rooms.

Cut your fabric according to your determined measurements for each panel. You should also iron each panel too to remove any creases. Zig zag
Side seams
stitch all four sides to prevent unraveling.

Stitch the sides first. On one side fold the fabric over by 1" and stitch down, this is going to be the outside edge of your curtains. Fold the fabric over by 2" on the opposite side and stitch down. This will be the side of the panel that goes down the center of the window when the curtains are closed. Iron each side to set the creases.

Now it is time to stitch the top and bottom. Fold the top of the panel over 4" and stitch down along the edge of the fabric you folded over. Now stitch an additional line 1 1/2" from the fold. This should create a 2" pocket for the curtain rod to slide through and a 1 1/2" piece that sits above the curtain rod.

Finally, stitch a 1 1/2" hem along the bottom of your curtain. Voila! You have created a curtain panel. Now repeat all the steps to make a second panel for the same window, just make sure the two panels mirror each other, if the 2" side is on the right side of your first panel, make sure it is on the left side of your second panel.

Top and Bottom
As far as hanging goes, any curtain rod will do. I like to get the fancy metal curtain rods with the decorative finials. I like the way they finish off the windows, and I have been able to get them for a good price at stores like Big Lots or the Christmas Tree Shop. Just follow the directions that came with your curtain rod for hanging.

Once you get the hang of it, curtains are very quick project. I was able to put all four panels together for my dining room in the span of a Sunday afternoon.

With that, I wish you all good luck in creating your own curtains. If you have any questions, feel free to message me. It really is a simple project with the potential of created a large impact to your room at a relatively low cost.

The Finished Project

Sunday, April 28, 2013

After Work Adventures- Baxter Woods

Thom and I have lived in Portland for almost two years, and we are just have just now discovered the diverse network of trails within the city. With spring finally upon us, we have been exploring the trails in the evenings after work with our hiking buddy, Dakota.

Our first adventure was to Baxter Woods, which is a 30-acre wooded area with a loop trail. It is a nice green space to take a stroll on a spring evening. Baxter Woods is also dog-friendly, which Dakota enjoys. It is nice to be able to let her go off leash and socialize with other dogs.

It is a nice easy walk on level ground through towering pine, oak and ash trees. There is also a pond on the Forest Ave end. We are particularly fond of Baxter Woods because it is not very far from our apartment, so we will be sure to frequent the park throughout the summer.

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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Cheesy Cauliflower Pancakes

With our CSA starting up in June, I have been searching Pinterest for vegetable recipes. The last time we went grocery shopping we were able to get a really good price on cauliflower, so I decided to give one of the recipes in my collection a try. Cheesy Cauliflower Pancakes sounded good, and I happened to have all the ingredients in my pantry.

I am happy to report that the recipe did not disappoint. Thom was a little nervous about them at first, but we were both in love with first bite. The flavor and texture are very similar to a potato latke, just instead of potato you are definitely eating cauliflower. This is definitely on our "make again" list.

The original recipe can be found here.

What you need:
1 head of cauliflower
2 large eggs
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (the sharper the better)
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (the original recipe calls for cayenne)
salt to taste
olive oil

What you do:
1. Chop the cauliflower into chunks and boil/steam until tender. Drain well, and mash the cauliflower while it is still warm.
2. Add cheese, eggs, bread crumbs, pepper flakes, and salt to the cauliflower. I added my eggs on top of everything else because the cauliflower is still quite warm and I did not want scrambled eggs. Fold everything together, the mixture will be quite moist.
3. Coat the bottom of a skillet with olive oil over medium high heat. Drop cauliflower by large spoonfuls into the oil, I was able to make three pancakes at a time. Cook until the bottoms are golden, then turn.
4. Place the finished pancakes on a cookie sheet in a warm oven, repeat step three as many times as necessary.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Getting Healthy, or Why We Started Eating All Natural/Organic

I look like a cow in this picture
Thom and I have never pretended to be examples of someone physically fit. Whether we like to admit it or not, we are overweight. For several years, we have both been saying that we want to lose weight, but we never did anything seriously about it. We joined gyms, but never went; started a diet, but cheated on it all the time. The intention was there, but the commitment was not. Enter our thirties, when everything starts to fall apart. To spare details, Thom has always had gastrointestinal issues, and things really came to a head in March of last year. He was referred to a gastroenterologist and had to go through several tests, but no real diagnosis was found. On a whim one day, I suggested that we try cutting corn syrup out of our diet. I had a friend growing up that had an intolerance to it, so I figured why not give it a shot. Within 72 hours, Thom's issues had disappeared. We found the culprit.

This led to research about corn syrup, specifically high fructose corn syrup. We learned that it was made through a chemical process that is currently unregulated through the federal government. We learned that it is related to intestinal issues, and it makes the body resistant to insulin. As well as some other really ugly facts about it, you can read for yourself here. What was even more infuriating was the fact that high fructose corn syrup is in everything; soda, cookies, candies, bread, crackers, ketchup, fruit juice, yogurt, the list goes on.

This caused a bit of a dilemma, how to we eat without poisoning ourselves? Our answer? Thank goodness for all natural grocery stores. In a matter of days we went from shopping at traditional grocery store to the all natural grocery store. I am so happy we made the switch. We are fortunate to have a Trader Joe's in town, so the switch actually saved us money. I can buy anything I want without having to worry about high fructose corn syrup or other nasty preservatives that we really just should not be eating. The best part? I get to fill up my cart with fresh veggies every week. Well, for now.

It turns out switching to all natural and organic food has caused a bit of a lifestyle change. Thom and I are quickly learning that when you eat better, you feel better. My own IBS has disappeared, our skin is clearer, we sleep better at night, and we have more energy during the day. To go along with this lifestyle change, we have joined a CSA for the summer. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Thom and I have invested in a local farm, and as a result we will get a portion of their harvest from June through to October. Fresh local veggies, I am so excited!

The additional energy has helped out too. Our Portland has hiking trails throughout the city, and now that spring has finally started to arrive, we have taken to after work hikes with the dog. It is a nice opportunity to spend time with Thom, take some pictures of the beautiful landscape around us, and, of course, get some exercise!

Our new, healthier lifestyle is yet another thing that I have to look forward to, and my jeans are definitely starting to get a bit looser by the day.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Home Decorating, On a Budget

Thom and I moved out of my mother's basement and into a third floor walk-up two bedroom apartment exactly one week before our wedding. We could fit the majority of our belongings at the time in the back of our four door sedan and used a small moving truck to carry the little furniture that we did have. Needless to say, our apartment was rather empty at first and less than functional. Over the course of the last year and a half we have slowly transformed our apartment into a home.

We still have a bit to go, but as you can see from the above picture of my dining room, we have come a long way. Our crowning achievement is going to be a furniture delivery that should be taking place this summer. That delivery will include our bedroom set, a new entertainment unit for the living room, and a new dining room set, more on that later. What I have learned over the last year and a half is how to furnish a two bedroom apartment without breaking the bank. Surprisingly, many of these lessons were learned during wedding planning.

Without further ado, tried and true tips on cost effective home decor:

  • Work with what you already have, it is a lot more affordable to alter an existing piece than to buy something brand new. A couple of cans of black spray paint have done wonders in my kitchen.
  • Make a budget, and stick to it. The concept of a budget for home decor is a bit looser for home decor. For example, when planning a wedding, there is a specific time frame in which everything needs to be paid for so you need to plan a budget according to that time frame. The joy of home decor is that there is no due date, it is an ongoing process. When it comes to a budget, have a general idea of how much you want to spend for a specific aspect, such as furniture, or a rug, or how much you want to spend in a month or a season, then just work within those parameters.
  • DIY everything that you can. Curtains are easy to make, and can save you hundreds. Throw pillows can be equally easy to make. For the less crafty inclined, a can of spray paint or a little elbow grease can update and otherwise outdated piece.
  • Do not be afraid of off-price outlets and discount stores. The area rugs in my living room and dining room cost me $30 each. My curtain rods with fancy finials cost me less than $7 each. Stay away from malls and full price, name brand stores. You can often get the same things at a fraction of the cost elsewhere.
  • Seek out your available resources. Do you have a sister that likes to paint? Ask her to paint you a mural. How about a friend that likes wood working? Inquire if they would be willing to help you with some handmade furniture. Thom and I acquired several pieces from older relatives cleaning out their attics. You would be surprised at what you can find for little to no cost.
  • Before you buy anything choose a color palette, and stick to it. I have burgundy, olive green, and gold throughout the living room, dining room, and kitchen of my apartment. All of the furniture is an ebony wood. This is not so much of a cost-effective tip as it is an overall decor tip. Keeping the same color palette gives the feeling of flow throughout the house. You can stray from the color palette in rooms that have a door that separates them from the remainder of your home, such as a bedroom or a bathroom. 
That is my list for now, if I think of anything else, I will update. Do you have any tips for decorating on a budget? 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Where to Begin?

A new blog, a first post. I have been here before, and as always I am stuck asking myself, where do I begin?  

I started blogging almost three years ago. My then-fiance and I had just moved to my home state of Maine from Kansas City, Missouri. I was unemployed, we were living in my mother's basement, and trying to plan our wedding. With some careful budgeting, understanding vendors, and hundreds of hours of DIY projects, we were able to create our dream wedding. You can read about it here.

After the wedding, I took some time off from blogging. Thom and I were settling into married life and a new apartment, and I was adjusting to a new career. I started blogging again about a year later with My Life, with a Touch of Purple. The blog was a lifestyle blog that quickly turned into a blog that chronicled my our first round of in vitro fertilization (IVF). Unfortunately, the pregnancy was not meant to be, and I stopped blogging the following November. My hiatus was partly to give myself time to heal, but mostly because I did not know how to begin again. I do not want to delete the posts, they are documentation of a memory, albeit a painful one, but also of a significant part of my life. My hope is that other people, in similar situations will find the blog and will find comfort in knowing that they are not alone.

I guess that brings me to today, and my original question, where do I begin?

I could go into my second round of IVF, which lead to a miscarriage at 6 weeks, but I am not. I will begin instead with a lesson that I learned as a result of that miscarriage. A loss is a loss, no matter how you look at it, that is a fact. The way you look at and interpret that loss is entirely up to you. My doctor sees hundreds of women a year that cannot get pregnant, that spend years trying and multiple rounds of IVF and never get a positive result. Thom and I got the positive. Yes, it was a loss, but it happened once, it will happen again. In life, if we look for the positive in things, the negatives are a bit easier to swallow and more manageable to navigate through.

This new-found positive outlook my inspiration for this new blog. I may not yet be a mommy, but I do have a beautiful apartment that I have furnished and decorated on a budget. Thom and I are transitioning to an all-natural/ organic diet and this summer we will be taking part in our first CSA, which means we will be sharing all kinds of healthful, yummy recipes. This is also our first year with a state park pass, which means we will be going on multiple adventures all over the state. With so many wonderful things, I cannot help but to keep a positive outlook on things. I am taking two steps forward, and I'm not looking back.
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