21 in 2010 - 3 month update.

Now that March is over, and we're three months into 2010, I thought it was time for an update on this year's goals.
  1. Win my family's Biggest Loser competition (starts January 6 and runs for 16 weeks). (Still going until the end of April - we'll see what happens, though I think winning might be a long shot.)
  2. Run a 5K. (Ugh. I really don't like running.)
  3. Take Dakota to the beach.
  4. Clean out the garage.
  5. Try 5 new fruits or vegetables. (4 down, 1 to go - spaghetti squash, grapefruit, parsnip, avocado.)
  6. Refinish the living room dresser.
  7. Walk the Norfolk Botanical Gardens.
  8. Organize the hall closet. (Done! See part 1, part 2, and part 3.)
  9. Grow something.
  10. Visit another continent. (Kelli and I are hoping to go to Gabon, Africa in August/September.)
  11. Read through the New Testament. (In progress - right now I'm reading through Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John chronologically.)
  12. See a Grand Illumination.
  13. For one month, watch only one hour of TV each week. (In progress - 2 1/2 weeks down so far, with only one hour total! See my reasons and my thoughts on day 3.)
  14. Try 25 new recipes. (15 of 25 done - see part 1, part 2, and part 3.)
  15. Read 3 non-fiction books.
  16. Become a Court Appointed Special Advocate. (In progress - if all goes according to plan, I'll be sworn in as a court officer on April 12 and receive a case shortly after that.)
  17. Blog every day for a month.
  18. Give 5 specific, unexpected, anonymous gifts
  19. Go skydiving. (Planned as part of Kelli's graduation gift - maybe August?)
  20. Take a picture a day for a month.
  21. Read through all of the Chronicles of Narnia. (In progress - I finished The Magician's Nephew, and am working on The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.)
Overall, not bad - but I think I better step it up a bit!

building custom shelves, part 2.

I should never, ever say that I'm going to post part 2 of anything. Unless its already written and any applicable photographs are taken, uploaded to my computer, and cropped/edited as necessary.

Anyway. This is a sequel - here are the links to the before/unfinished after and the details, part 1.

Also, I should mention that I started to write this post, then realized I couldn't remember how we attached the vertical parts of the shelves (the pieces that divide the closet). So, I called my dad, who also couldn't remember, so I had to send him a picture so he could say what he would do if he had to do it again.

The shelves

After we cleared everything out of the closet, including the old shelves, Dad marked the height for the new shelves on the wall (the shelves are 12 inches apart), and drew horizontal lines on the wall with one of these:

(image from Home Depot)

I have a tiny little 12-inch level. A big level is one of the things on my wish list. So is a nail gun.

So, we started by cutting 1x2s to the proper length and nailing these to the walls on two sides (the left and the back). Once we were ready with the vertical supports, we would nail another piece of 1x2 to the supports, then the 1x12s would sit on top of these braces. We used the drawn lines as guides - each horizontal brace was placed just under the line.

(notice the nail that didn't actually go into the brace? :-) )

The vertical support closest to the wall, was nailed to the horizontal braces that ran parallel to it (after Dad used a hand saw to cut a notch to go around the baseboard). Then we attached the horizontal braces, including the piece of 1x4 that ran across the top, and the second vertical piece of 1x4.

Then it was just a matter of cutting the 1x12s down to the proper length. Each of these was nailed into the horizontal braces, with the exception of the bottom shelf. That shelf currently blocks the access to the bathroom plumbing, so those shelves are just sitting on the braces, so they can easily be removed.

The very top shelf is the same one that was already there - we just replaced the horizontal braces. There is a piece of 1x2 on the left, and a piece of 1x4 on the right (because of the pegboard - I'll explain that in a second). This shelf also sits on top of the divider.

The rod

We added a piece of 1x4 horizontally to the right side of the vertical supports (for the hanging-space section of the closet). The closet rod is attached to that piece, and the one on the opposite wall (that is also supporting the top shelf).

We considered trying to re-use the rod that was already in there, but (1) we would have needed to borrow something to cut it down to size, (2) we would have needed some way to attach each end to the horizontal support pieces, and (3) this 2-foot rod was only $7.

The pegboard

The pegboard is my favorite part! Dad used the circular saw to cut it down to size (it was just a bit too wide to fit on the wall). We attached extra pieces of 1x2s to the back of the two sides - this helped to make sure that when it was attached to the board at the top, that it hung straight. Screw it in to the top support, and its ready to go.

Seriously, pegboard has to be one of the most versatile organization tools out there. Need proof? Check out this gift wrap organizer, or article from Real Simple (with ideas to organize your office, closet, and laundry room).

The light

I had assumed the light bulb was attached to the ceiling - instead it was just kind of sitting loose on the inside door frame. So, Dad screwed it in the wall above the frame. Initially, I wasn't crazy about the string hanging down, and thought about trying to find some way to pretty it up, but honestly, with the stuff on the shelves, its not even noticable.

The plumbing access door

Since we had enough extra pieces of 1x4, we also cut a rough frame for the access door, just to make that look a little nicer.

The finished product

I primed everything, then painted the walls blue (I wanted something bright) and the shelves and trim a basic white.

Then, it was just a matter of sorting, grouping, and putting everything away! The shelves are full, but very organized and everything is in a logical place - I love it! Plus, now there's room for my coats and vacuum cleaner, and the top shelf is nearly empty.

The very last step is to hang a curtain of some sort to hide things when I want to - but my original plan for that isn't quite working out and I haven't figured out yet what I want to do to fix it.

I'm still marking goal #8 as done!


Love this:

"I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see."
~ John Burroughs

new recipes, part 3.

Last week and this week have been really busy, as I've spent three nights a week in training to become a CASA, which means I not only take lunch to work, but also dinner to eat just before I leave. So, the weekends before, I've made a bunch of food all at once, to have leftovers ready throughout the week. Its working really well, even for days that I don't have training, because getting dinner when I get home is a snap.

These are some of the recipes I've used (13-15 of 25):

Slow-Cooker Chicken Curry

I think I've only really had curry once before, though my recipe for chicken broccoli divan calls for some of it, and I like that. This recipe, of course, calls for significantly more. It was good, but you can definitely taste the curry, and it has a little kick. I might use a bit less next time. Of course, I'm kind of wimpy when it comes to spicy food.

Spinach Lasagna Rolls

Yum, yum, yum. One tip I read before regarding spinach rolls - if you add a bit of olive oil to the water when boiling, before you add the lasagna noodles, it keeps them from slipping together. Super easy to put together - if my dad would eat ricotta, I'd make these for family (and use meat instead of spinach in his).

Slow Cooker Taco Soup

Good, quick, easy, and it makes a TON.


I know I'm posting this late in the day, but...

Happy St. Patty's Day!

I celebrated by enjoying my red hair, wearing green, and listening to whatever Irish music I could find online that wouldn't get me in trouble at work (i.e. no songs about whiskey).

tv fast (day three).

I'm back to figuring out how to cross goal #13 off my list: For one month, watch only one hour of TV each week.

I knew this would be hard and would stretch me, but what I didn't realize was just how hard it would be. The first time I tried, I didn't even last three days. So I've been giving a lot of thought into exactly how this is going to work. I even considered waiting until the end of August/beginning of September, because my sister Kelli and I are hoping to take a trip to Africa then. And how much easier would it be to give up TV when I'm on another continent and busy riding elephants and stuff? Plus (as Kelli pointed out), nothing new is on in the summer, anyway.

The problem is, all of that manipulation doesn't really address the reasons why I wanted to cut back in the first place.

So, I'm trying again. Notice that I waited until I was three days into it before announcing it? Yes, because sometimes accountability is a pain in the rear.

My first goal is just to avoid it for a week, starting last Sunday, through this Saturday. And depending on how that goes, maybe the next week as well. And then we'll see. I'm hoping that the busyness of these next two weeks (I started my CASA training tonight) will make this a bit easier.

Here are a couple of things I've learned already:
  • Watching TV is as much a habit as anything else. Every day, I come home from work, make something to eat for dinner, then eat it in front of the TV while I play around on the computer. This is the time that I almost instinctively reach for the remote.
  • Though I don't fall asleep to the TV, and don't even think I could, I'm finding it much harder to go to sleep without watching it. I think this is because whatever else I'm doing, my mind is more active just before I go to bed, and I'm having a hard time turning it off. Katie pointed out that she uses TV as a distraction - this might also be true for me. So, I've started reading a bit before sleeping - The Chronicles of Narnia (which is helping me work on goal #21).

quick takes, vol 2.

-- 1 --

Part of the reason that I decided to identify several goals for myself last year (and again this year), rather that set resolutions, was born out of desire to live intentionally. I found resolutions incredibly ineffective, but still wanted to make progress, not only in habits, but also in pursuing life experiences.

I stumbled across a new-to-me blog this past week, called Tiny Twig Goes Out On A Limb, and I really enjoyed reading through her posts. Her goal is to live a more passionate and adventurous life, by giving herself a mission to complete every week. Her choices are interesting, but what I enjoyed the most was her reflections at the end of the week. I'm getting ideas for things I'd like to add to my own bucket list.

-- 2 --

Since I completed the list of Recipes to Try on the sidebar, I've replaced the list with new ones.

-- 3 --

I've also updated my list of Projects To Try. In reality, the list in my head is much more dynamic - I'm always finding new ideas of things I want to try.

-- 4 --

This week I start CASA training, and though I'm not looking forward to the training schedule (30 hours in 2 weeks), I am looking forward to actually starting the work, and seeing how God stretches me as I move outside my comfort zone.

-- 5 --

The closet is done. Except for the curtain that I'll be making to keep everything out of sight. But as that will take some time, and as time will be in short supply for the next couple weeks, I'm calling it done (and crossing goal #8 off my list). I'll try to take after pictures soon, and finally post the part 2 update that contains the details of how we created the shelves. I will say this - pegboard makes me very happy.

-- 6 --

My sister Kelli and I are planning to go to Gabon in late August / early September, with the timing dependent somewhat on the hope that we can find inexpensive flights. Or, at least, less expensive flights. We're hoping that Kelli will be able to use her medical training, and that I'll be able to work at an orphanage there.

new recipes, part 2.

These are recipes 6-12 of 25.

Crockpot Chicken Taco Chili

Good, easy. Definitely making it again.

Crockpot Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches

When Mom and Dad were visiting, and Dad and I were building the closet shelves, I wanted something I could easily make for dinner that wouldn't require a lot of prep time. This definitely fits in that category, but it needed to cook a lot longer than the recipe stated, even on high - the meat was done, but the peppers and onion needed more time. I ended up turning the crockpot down to low and letting it cook for several more hours, then reheated it for dinner the next day. Still really good, either on a roll like a traditional cheese steak, or on top of rice - I'll probably make this again.

Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta

I've had this recipe saved for a few months, but re-discovered it when I was cleaning out my to-make list one night. Perfect, because I was just about to make something simple for dinner, like pasta with jarred spaghetti sauce. I cooked the chicken in the microwave (which I hate doing, but I was hungry) and when I browned it on the stove with the sauce, I added some herbed spinach blend to it. I'd definitely recommend it!

Lemon Feta Chicken with Oregano

This is another really easy recipe - I made it for company, and they loved it! The prep for the recipe is really simple - juice a lemon, mix it with a few herbs, slather them on the chicken, and throw it in the oven. Love recipes like that!

Chicken Ropa Vieja

Writing a review of this recipe is really hard, because I didn't like it, but I think its probably because of how I tweaked it. As much as I love using my crockpot, especially during the week, I've found that anything that needs to cook only a short time (meaning less than a full workday), or that requires much work after I get home, just isn't a good fit for me.

The first part of this recipe calls for cooking the chicken in the crockpot, then shredding it and reserving some of the broth for use later. I did this the night before, then just let the crockpot cool and put the whole thing in my refrigerator. What I probably should have done instead is take the chicken out, shred it, then save the broth I needed separately. Instead, I did this the next evening, and the chicken ended up somewhat slimy and with a very odd consistency, especially when cooked with the reserved broth and tomato sauce later (I also substituted chicken broth for the dry white wine called for in the recipe).

Southwestern Bean Salad

I made this the same night as I made chicken ropa vieja (see above), and since I didn't end up eating that dish, I didn't eat much of this easier. What little I had was good, but the next day, I threw the rest in the crockpot with some frozen chicken breasts, salsa, and taco seasoning to make filling for chicken soft tacos.

Chicken, Broccoli, and Cashew Stir-Fry

This recipe was good, and was pretty easy because I did a lot of the prep work ahead of time (mostly chopping the carrots, garlic, and scallions). I'd never tried soba noodles before, and while they were good, I think I prefer to eat stir-fry with rice.

On self-sufficiency.

I'm a pretty independent, self-suffficient person. In many ways, I have to be. If the garage floods, I'm the one who calls the plumber. If the grass needs to be mowed, I either mow it or pay someone else to do it. If I want to eat dinner, I have to buy or make the food.

And, frankly, it isn't that there aren't areas that I would be glad to turn over to someone else. I don't enjoy dealing with car stuff, and I really dislike alomst anything to do with the outside of my house.

I realized recently, though, that's its possible to become so used to doing things on my own, that I don't let anyone else help me. This past week a coworker offered to help me drop off and pick up my car when I remarked off-handedly that I needed to get it inspected, and I was surprised. Of course, had someone asked me to do the same, I would have done it without hesitation, but somehow I seemed to believe that to ask someone to do it for me would be putting them out.

The danger in being so self-sufficient, in doing it all myself, is that I start to believe that I really can, and I start to forget that I desperately need Christ more. I also miss out of the community of believers, on the way God intended for the church to function, and on giving other people the chance to help me out.

Because the truth is, I do need other people. I need to know and remember that we don't walk through this journey of faith alone