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Family

What are you grateful for?

Today I was perusing videos on YouTube and happened upon this speech by David Chilton. He is the author of The Wealthy Barber and its sequel The Wealthy Barber Returns. He’s definitely one of my favourite speakers and authors.

In this speech, Chilton tells us that he believes that Canada is a country full of complainers and that complaining is indeed a national pastime. They complain about things like standing in a long line up at Tim Horton’s and also their free – yes, you read that right, free – healthcare system. They complain because they don’t know how good they have it and they take their good fortune for granted. I reflected how this might also be true here.

I highly encourage you to watch his speech as it will change your perspective on life.

Chilton’s speech has certainly given me a lot to reflect on. I know that I can get bogged down in complaints with the best of them. Lately, I have been complaining more about minor inconveniences in my life. So I have decided that I will make more of a concerted effort to be grateful.

I encourage you to do the same. Like Chilton says, we are all indeed the lucky ones and instead of complaining, we should show our gratitude. We should also spread our good fortune to those who are less fortunate like those who have been affected by the Ebola epidemic in West Africa or those who are suffering from poverty.

I just read a book entitled Living On A Dollar A Day and discovered that about 2 billion people on earth live on less than two dollars a day. I am truly flabbergasted by this statistic. It makes me feel sad for our society as we are ignoring the large number of people who live in poverty everyday. It also made me realize all of the things I take for granted including electricity, running water, three meals a day and a roof over my head.

However, the book also shows that we can all take action and do our part to alleviate poverty in the world. This year, my husband and I have sponsored a child in India through the organization SOS Children’s Villages. We know that our small contribution every month will have a big impact on her life, allowing her to grow up in a safe environment and pursue an education.

Gratitude makes us kinder, more empathetic, happier and healthier. It makes us appreciate ourselves and others. Complaining makes us bitter and negative. Complaining might feel good for a while, but too much complaining is unhealthy and will drag us down in the end.  So why not raise ourselves up and show some gratitude. We all have a lot to be grateful for as Americans. Once we realize this, we will be better able to make a lasting impact on the world and our fellow human beings.

What are you grateful for?

Family, Food, Garden

A Great Summer Outdoor Party on a Budget

You don’t need to break the bank to throw a wow-worthy outdoor party – its simple backyard economics, the less you spend on entertaining the more you can entertain. So whether you are having an outdoor party for a few neighbors or the whole neighborhood, here are 15 tips to help keep you on budget and entertaining all summer long.

  • Don’t buy invitations – send an email or call your guests, it’s more personal and costs nothing.
  • You don’t need to drop a bundle on the main course. The old standbys like hot dogs and hamburgers are budget friendly and can easily be dressed up. Remember stuff them, top them or steep them – stuff them with flavorful combinations like onions or bleu cheese, top them with sautéed onions, peppers or mushrooms or steep them overnight in your favorite marinade.
  • Serve personal pizzas – they are an entree that doesn’t generally require a side dish, with only a few ingredients can be customized to your guest list and with a little planning can cost less than a few dollars a pie.
  • Save some dough by serving bread before or during the meal – carbs are inexpensive and guests will feel full and satisfied without huge servings.
  • Don’t use disposable serveware, it’s not eco-friendly and over the course of a summer the costs can add up. Invest in some durable melamine  and tea towels or cloth napkins, it will pay off in the long run and can bring some real economic style to your tablescape.
  • Always preheat your grill, but don’t waste fuel by letting it heat for a long period – a gas grill can reach 350-400 within 10-15 minutes. If you are using charcoal grill can get a handy surface thermometer to know when it’s at the perfect temperature. Make sure to turn off the propane supply at the tank to prevent leaks from wasting fuel while the grill is not in use.
  • If it’s hot then its a good idea to get hold of an outdoor misting fan which do a great job of lowering the temperature to bearable levels
  • Careful not to waste money by burning meat – always keep a spray bottle of clean water nearby to stop flare ups that can blacken a good steak and use a quality thermometer to make sure it is done just right.
  • Care for your grill – clean it after each use and keep the grate well oiled, with only a little regular TLC it will last you many a summer party.
  • Use only as good of meat cut as necessary – for example, if you are serving steak salads (a warm weather favorite), don’t spring for rib-eye use a shoulder tender, still a good cut of meat but at half the price of the marquee cuts.
  • Make sure your outdoor entertaining is well lit, but use solar lights whenever practical – there are infinite solar options and they will save you money on the utility bills.
  • Use a stylish beverage dispenser with fresh water (flavored with lemon) to avoid the expense of bottled water – often guests lose track of their bottle and open another creating waste and expense.
  • Buy in bulk – especially for veggies – buying prewashed, precut is convenient but pricey. Better yet grow your own, don’t need a lot of space – the average tomato plant can yield 10 lbs, a cucumber plant about 15 cucumbers.
  • If there’s something you don’t have, like stemware or food service, barrow from a friend or make them a co-host.
  • Simple touches can make a party great without costing you much – dress up serveware with lettuce leaves or fruit garnishes, make an ice bucket or create a centerpiece with clippings from your flower bed arranged in a couple mason jars.

The more you save, the more you can party. Follow these tips and you can entertain outdoors all summer long.

If you have other ways to make a party special and keep it in budget, we would love to hear – leave me a comment.

Product sources:

Amazon.com

https://gardeneaze.com/best-outdoor-misting-fan-reviews/

Food

Blackberry Lemon Sticky Buns

In this neck of the woods, we have 3 seasons. Rainy season, slightly less rainy season, and blackberry season. And suddenly this year we were hit with a new one: drought season. After weeks of scorching temperatures and minimal rain, I can’t begin to tell you how happy I was to see blackberry season arrive. Sure, there’s the fact that it means the rain isn’t too far behind, but more importantly…blackberries!

With an entire field full of blackberries at my disposal, trying to decide what to do with the inevitable buckets of these juicy berries that end up in my kitchen is a task I am happy to tackle. There is the always delicious blackberry apple crisp, the classic blackberry pie, and last year’s new discovery of blackberry apple sauce (have I mentioned we also have three apple trees in our yard?), but there is nothing more delicious than Blackberry Lemon Sticky Buns.

There are 3 ways to make these Sticky Buns: The Martha Stewart way (hand made from scratch) the Proud-to-present-these-to-the-inlaws-and-never-tell-them-I-used-a-bread-machine way (bread machine dough) anddddddd the it’s-too-hot-to-spend-hours-in-the-kitchen-but-I-love-dessert way. I won’t tell you which method I subscribe to. Suffice it to say you can buy frozen bread dough in the freezer section of your local supermarket and no one will be the wiser. I’ve used all 3 methods and you truly can’t tell the difference. I won’t judge you if you go all Martha Stewart and outshine me, I promise.

Blackberry Lemon Sticky Buns

Ingredients

  • 2 loaves of frozen white bread dough, or homemade bread dough recipe dough
  • 12 ounces of cream cheese at room temperature
  • 3 cups of frozen blackberries
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plus 3 tbsp powdered sugar (divided)
  • 3 tbsp milk or cream
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Thaw the frozen bread dough in the fridge overnight (or for 12 hours) or make a double batch of your own bread dough recipe (I won’t judge!)  Remove from fridge, cover and let rise for 2 hours. Flour the work surface well and roll the two pieces together into a rectangle of approximately 12” x24” (just eyeball it!)
  2. Mix together the cream cheese, lemon zest, sugar, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix together the frozen blackberries, cornstarch and 3 tbsp powdered sugar.
  3. Spread the cream cheese mixture over the entire surface of the dough then sprinkle the blackberry mixture over the top. Starting on one long end, carefully roll the dough up into a log.  Using a serrated knife, cut the log into 12 equal pieces. Place the rolls in a parchment paper lined 9 X 13 inch baking dish and allow them to rise for 30-45 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake for 30-35 minutes until the tops are golden brown.  After allowing the sticky buns to cool for 15 minutes, remove them from the pan using the parchment paper. Whisk together the powdered sugar, milk or cream and lemon juice. Drizzle this deliciousness over the top of the sticky buns.

Enjoy!

Crafts

Headboard Love

It’s been months since I promised you all a post showing off my Craigslist find that I turned into a headboard.  From the looks of things it was, at one point, part of a bedframe….I think? But either way, I loved the curves and knew that a little bit of spray paint would make this the headboard I’ve been dreaming about forever.

 

Okay, maybe more than a little bit of spray paint.  It definitely needed sanding so I had to get one specially. I have a limited budget so in the end went for the Black and Decker BDCMS20C detail sander found here. With my lovely new sander, I sanded it, primed it, and THEN spray painted it.

Took about 2 hours to actually get to the spray painting part of things…

White. Because I want to paint everything in my house white right now.

I’m SERIOUSLY in love with this! It’s exactly what I pictured!  You’ll notice I still haven’t painted my nightstands…whoops! They’re going white, too.

 

While I had the spray paint out, I thought I’d paint my $5 outside owl.

I’ve been looking for an owl (I know, I’m a weirdo) for the TV cabinet for a while now, and finally found one I liked the look of, but the colour was terrible.

He loves his new home.

Next up on my painting list:

Dining room chairs. I’m not sure what colour just yet, but I had to say goodbye to my bring green chairs since two of them were falling apart, and one of them had a giant crack. So I’m starting fresh.

I did like the style of them better though….

*****

It’s a long weekend here in Canada and it’s so nice to actually have nothing that has to be done.  Life has been, quite frankly, overwhelming lately, so three day to relax and do small projects around the house is just what the doctor ordered.

Family

Summer Bucket List

Every summer I come up with a list of things I’d like to accomplish, and every summer I end up disappointed at how little I actually got done.  The list usually includes things like “paint the bathroom” and “lose 30 pounds” and “go camping for a week” (I want to like camping, I really do…) – all reasonable, concrete goals. This summer I took a bit of a different approach. I managed to get all of July and August off, and really wanted to focus on spending the time being happy.

Happy? I know, seems so simple. Who has to focus on being happy?? Well, THIS GIRL. It’s so easy to just get wrapped up in working, cleaning, LIVING, that you forget to be happy.  So, with that in mind, this is my summer bucket list:

  • Read. Every single day. Only books I enjoy.
  • Watch the sunset at least once.
  • Watch the sunrise at least once.
  • Play more Scrabble with Meegs
  • Sit under the apple tree and read with Meegs as often as possible.
  • Watch the blue moon rise.
  • Watch the stars and identify constellations.
  • Bird watch.
  • Pick blackberries and make some jam with Meegs.
  • Spend some time at the beach. Reading. Playing cards. Swimming.
  • Spend time around the campfire (thanks a lot, fire ban!)
  • Take a day and hang out in our PJs, watching girly movies and generally having fun.
  • Go for a long drive into the middle of nowhere and have a picnic (We might just do this on Meeghan’s birthday next Saturday.)
  • RELAX.

This might seem a disappointing “bucket list” to those who prefer the kind that involve sky diving and swimming with sharks, but it’s really just perfect in my eyes. Most of these can already be checked off, and the few that remain will be complete before I head back to work and Meegs to school.

Food

Coconut Chicken Casserole

You know how sometimes you make a recipe and think “That was amazing, I can’t wait to make that again” ? Then you forget about it, the piece of paper you write it on disappears, and the recipe is never created again?

This is one of those recipes.

I only remembered it because I ran across the pictures I took of it for the blog! It was so good, I had to share.  The next step was to dig through my recipe binders to figure out what I did with the scrap of paper I wrote it on.

Couldn’t find it.

So now what?   Hmmmm…… Google the ingredients to see if I could find a similar recipe (I had a picture of the ingredients after all).

Success! Thank you, Martha.  Seems whoever I stole this recipe from, stole if from Martha originally! So, for Martha’s version of the recipe, visit here.

Here’s what you  need:

  • 3 pounds of chicken ( I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs, but any would do)
  • 1 can of light coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 cups of veggie stock (original calls for chicken, but I had veggie on hand)
  • 3 tsp of thai red curry paste (original says 1 to 2 and I’m NOT a fan of spicy food, but 2 wasn’t enough)
  • 1 cup of jasmine rice
  • 2 red peppers cut into 3 inch pieces
  • 12 ounce or so of green beans cut into 3 inch pieces(original calls for 8 but 12 was perfect). You could use frozen if that’s what you have on hand
  • salt and pepper to taste

Here’s how you put it all together:

You can do this in a dutch oven if you have one, or if you don’t have one, cook this in a large pot.

  1. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes, and then transfer to a plate.
  2. Next, add coconut milk, broth, 1/2 cup of water and 3 tsp of curry paste (you can add more later if you don’t find it spicy enough).  Bring to a boil, stir in 1 cup of jasmine rice.  At this stage if place the chicken back on top of the casserole and pour any juices from the chicken on top, put the lid on and let it simmer for about 15 minutes.
  3. Put your bell peppers and green beans on top of the chicken, replace the lid, cook for about 12 more minutes.
  4. It’s that easy. And OH SO tasty.

Impossible to lose the recipe once you’ve blogged it! Try it – you will thank me!

Garden

August

This has been an atypical summer for us west coasters. Hot and dry weather have been lauded by some as a “real” summer, while still others (ME!) much prefer the cooler, damp summers of years past.

As we make our way into August, I’m already mentally preparing for fall. I’m writing this from my picnic table, after finally receiving a showery day. Sweater and pants, but still enjoying Meegs and her friend laughing while jumping on the trampoline. I can hear crickets, but still see blackberries on the vine.

You see, August is the best of both worlds. The sun is lower in the sky, and the nights are cooler. We can enjoy what’s left of our oft too short summer, and we no longer take it for granted. We start to realize what my ol’ buddy Will once wrote: summer’s lease hath all too short a date.

I had a summer bucket list this year, and I feel like I’ve made some serious progress. Maybe tomorrow I’ll post it on here, and you guys can let me know about your summer bucket lists. In the meantime, I’m content to sit here, soaking up the August-ness of this evening.

Garden

Garden of Eden

Today is a quintessential summer day.  The sun is warm, the breeze is fresh, and the grass is cool and welcoming.  Thank God for days like this.  The kind that remind you fondly of childhood memories, and dare you not to make more of these memories with your own children.  When you’re surrounded by this most delicious of days, even the cynics of the world are out drinking in the sunshine.

So much of my life has been on the sidelines.  Sunny summer days haven’t meant donning a bathing suit and hitting the beach, carefree with friends.  When you’re fat, these things aren’t at the top of your list of things to do (well, at least not mine).  I’m so thankful I’m finally stepping up and making a change.

Summer is the easiest time to eat well.  We’re surrounded by fresh summer fruits and vegetables, and for me, my yard is full of them.

Grapes on the Vine
Peaches in the Tree
A garden full of greens…

This time of year makes excuses hard to come by.  There’s no reason not to go for a walk, or play with the kids in the yard.  No reason not to buy fresh produce – it’s at its most inexpensive.

We have decided to build ourselves a greenhouse in our garden in order to grow more lovely natural food.  Unfortunately we need a few essential tools that we’ve not needed before. We were not sure exactly which were the best tools, but found a great review site, Home Tool Helper which gave us a great lead. We now have a number of items, including things as neat as a set of precision screwdrivers. We’re all set to go, we just need some plans.

I’ve recommitted myself to losing weight, and so far, so good.  Lynn is doing a seven day yoga challenge that I’m going to be taking part in this week.  I like challenges – and I’m competitive. I’m going to compete against myself this week to see who wins.  I’m betting the healthy me takes it all. Seven days is nothin’.

Why put off until tomorrow what can be done today? I love that quote.  I’ve put off losing weight and being healthy, and that has “put off” so many things I’ve wanted to do in my life.

I’m off to enjoy this weather, this day, and everything in it!

I’ll leave you with a picture of this critter we found in the yard a few days ago….came ashore to lay some eggs in the grass.  Kind of amazing!

Garden

Summer

Today was the most glorious summer day.  The afternoon was spent drinking in the sunshine, reading a cheesy-but-fabulous book, and resetting my brain.

More tomorrow on fresh starts. In the meantime, Lynn inspired me to take the leap and buy my URL: www.alisfattofit.com A commitment to myself, this blog, and my future.

 

Looking Good

I Have Nothing to Wear!

Have you ever looked into your closet and thought,

I have nothing to wear?

Even though there may be rows and rows of clothes in your closet, nothing seems right for the occasion.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve felt this way! Although I have outfits in numerous colours, shapes and sizes, nothing seems right when I think of the party I have to go to or the people I will meet. The only solution? Well, a shopping trip of course! ‘Cause nothing solves the problem of not having enough than buying more.

But this is only a temporary solution at best. At worst, the cycle starts again as the new items in my closet get comfortable and become same old, same old. Soon I hear myself saying those same tired words,

I have nothing to wear!

How can we break this cycle? Is it possible in a world where new is fresh, styles keep changing and old outfits can go stale so quickly? Below you will find some tips and tricks to make the most of your clothes so that next time you look in your closet you don’t have to utter those dreaded words, “I have nothing to wear!”

  • Clean out your closet – Before every season (spring, summer, fall and winter), do an inventory of the items in your closet. When it comes to some of my clothes I am an eternal optimist. “Of course I will lose 10 pounds and be able to wear that dress again!” But keeping that dress around won’t help me achieve my weight loss goals like going to the gym will, and having items around that I will never wear just takes up unnecessary room in my closet. Donating old clothes to the Salvation Army or Goodwill ensures that I can find the clothes I love more quickly without being weighed down by the emotional baggage of my old clothes.
  • Participate in a clothing swap – Recently, one of my friends gifted me with a dress that she can no longer fit into because she’s pregnant. Although the dress was gently used, it was new to me and I rocked my new outfit the next day at work! These days it’s not hard to find a clothing swap in your area. You can trade the clothes and accessories you no longer covet for new ones. Some people have a stigma with used clothing, but honestly no one will know except you that the outfit you are wearing is not brand new. So shed the stigma and have some fun meeting new friends and finding new treasures at a clothing swap.
  • Recycle your styles – Style icons Kate Middleton and Michelle Obama are known for wearing the same clothes and accessories to numerous different occasions. There is nothing wrong with wearing the same thing twice in a short period of time. If you love an outfit and it makes you feel good, it is only natural to keep on wearing it. You can always change up your accessories and give your outfit a whole new look!
  • Make it new again – The back of my closet is where clothes go to die! Here you can find the outfits I no longer wear for some reason or other. But sometimes, I find a hidden gem here as well. The other day I found a bright blue collared shirt that I hadn’t worn in ages. It still fit and looked fresh since everyone else had started to wear boring black and grey. I even got a compliment from a co-worker on how the colour rocked! So just because you haven’t worn an outfit in a while doesn’t mean that it can no longer be fresh. Pair some of the  items relegated to the back of your closet with the tried, tested and true, and you’ll find that the results will not only surprise but delight you!

So next time you find yourself thinking “I have nothing to wear”, remember the tips and tricks above!