Using Google Calendar for meal planning

While I don’t love planning, I love myself a good system. Furthermore, figuring out an organizational approach that works for my chaotic way of thinking is a challenge I always enjoy.

I’ve started experimenting with Google Calendar as a meal planning tool, since a calendar is essentially what my meal plan is.

So far, the benefits have been:

  • It’s digital: Keeping it up to date feels much more achievable than something analog (and if it feels more do-able, I’m more likely to stick with it).
  • It’s shareable: I can enter notes about ingredients we need to buy and both my husband and I can access them from our phones (at work and at the grocery store).
  • It’s intuitive: I don’t have to learn a new tool. I already know the ins and outs.
  • It’s modular: My hope is that it will also be easy to copy and paste recipes for future weeks.
  • It’s flexible: I’ve used Paprika in the past for saving recipes, but I love a good recipe book. Paprika is tailored to online recipes. With Google Calendar, I can simply leave a page reference in my calendar event if the recipe is from a book, and not online. I can also account for days with gourmet meals like “leftovers” ☺️.

Here’s a look at how each night shows up:

Google calendar screenshot
Google calendar screenshot

Rocket science? Absolutely not. But for the first time ever I’m meal planning, so something about the simplicity is working for me. Cheers to that!

Stay scrappy and roll with what’s intuitive!

Fueling fitness. Aka: Protein… that I can pronounce

Let’s talk about fueling fitness.

Nutrition and fitness

I have a close friend who is a competitive triathlete. We went to the gym together once (and only once) when we were in college. She was giving me some weight lifting tips, and in the process of bicep curls with weights in the sub-5 pound category, I may or may not have shed a few tears. I left her truly speechless. Years later, I had another friend attempt to convince me to compete in a half IronMan with them, and to squash their hopes I said “Look, let’s call my triathlete friend, and she will confirm I’m not up to the task.” Instead, when I asked her what she though of me attempting to swim, bike, and run myself to the finish line, her response was “Well, you’ll need to get a good nutrition plan in place.”

While her response didn’t quite compel me to sign up for a half IronMan, it has left a lasting impression on me regarding the importance of nutrition and its relationship to fitness. If a solid nutrition plan was enough to make someone (with experience enough to know better) believe I might have a shot at completing a half iron man, then it was a topic I needed to give some consideration.

OK, but what should I eat?

Flash forward to present day, when most of my models for fitness nutrition look something like my husband—they’ve already got this fitness thing dialed in, and they often exit the gym with a protein drink in hand. I, on the other hand, am still learning how to pack my gym bag without forgetting running shoes. I also would love to establish “clean” food habits for myself… and while I’m still figuring out what that means, relying on powder as a nutritional source doesn’t exactly seem like my jam. And so, I’m going to view this as an opportunity—a chance to build a snacking habit that’s a bit better, focusing on ensuring I have the energy to work out and my body has good resources available (design criteria: 1. protein 2. From ingredients I can pronounce) to rebuild muscle. It’s a great opportunity to practice a less perfect approach to change, focusing on growth in one area rather than boiling the ocean.

So what did that look like this week?

Lära bars

Lara bars are made with just a handful of ingredients, all of which I can pronounce. Yes, I could just carry fruit and nuts in my bag, but it helps that these are shelf stable, and if I forget them in my bag (“forgetful-friendly” is probably another design requirement for success here, lets be real) I won’t discover a science project later.

Avocado and crackers

Trader Joes everything crackers are actually pretty friendly in terms of artificial ingredients, which make them perfect for shoveling avocado in my face. Together I get lots of healthy fats, and a snack that is filling enough to hold me over between workout and dinner.

Trader joes crackers
Trader joes crackers package detail
140 calories per serving, and for a processed food, I can still mostly pronounce all the ingredients

Carrots and nut butter

I carried these in my bag in this amazing reusable container. Be jealous. And yes, after snacking on these, I did end up forgetting the mostly empty container (still smeared with peanut butter) in my bag for a day or two… but no harm no foul.

Wonder woman snack container

Three delicious options for giving my body what it needs to repair itself after a workout, all with ingredients I can pronounce. I’ll take it!

Stay sweaty and feed your face!

Designing beautiful new homes for adorable little succulent cuttings

On a recent thrift store outing I found these gorgeous little containers for around $1 each. I had been shopping with Halloween costumes in mind, but couldn’t pass these up.

Various make-shift pots from the thrift store

Back at home I had some tiny succulents planted in yogurt containers (I had poked some holes in the bottom with a kitchen knife for drainage) waiting for more permanent homes. They had all been propagated from the plants in my garden—whether cuttings that I’d taken while pruning, or pups that had grown over the past season.

Succulents in a box ready for planting
Three little pups from the same parent plant.

This little buddy was a cutting from a larger plant—look at all those roots that grew after setting it on its own in the soil and only watering it every couple weeks.

Succulent cutting with new roots
New roots on a succulent propagated from a cutting

I used river rocks (I picked up 5lbs at Home Depot for $4 and some change) to cover the soil on top of each pot primarily for aesthetic impact. But they can also be great for layering under the soil as well. Succulents hate wet roots and can easily rot, so adding pebbles and stones makes room for more air.

River pebbles

Once I was done, I used a paint brush to sweep out the little dirt globs hiding between the succulent leaves.

Brushing dirt off of potted succulents

I love the end result! I’ll pass a few on as gifts (luckily I have great girlfriends who also enjoy being plant parents) and I’ll keep a few to decorate the house.

Potted succulents
Potted succulents
Green succulents in an orange pot
Succulents in a tea pot

Fitness is more than weight | Fitbit Aria 2

I got home from Orlando to a nice surprise today—a Fitbit Aria 2!

Woman standing on scale

I’ve been wearing a Fitbit Ionic smart watch for over a year now. I love that the data provides a fuller picture of what health looks like. Not just a number on a scale, but also my cardio fitness and the number of hours of sleep I get each night. There’s no focus on weight, which isn’t a great indicator of health. For me in particular, my weight is usually higher when I’m making healthy choices—when I work out I gain muscle mass that isn’t there when I’m more sedentary.

The Aria 2 adds one more data point to the mix—my percent body fat. I’m excited about being able to include this in my more nuanced picture of health that’s already tracked in my Fitbit app today.

Scale showing body fat percentage
Fitbit app on iOS device
Fitbit app on iOS device - weight screen

The scale was easy to connect to my wifi network and my Fitbit app (and batteries were included!) so startup only took a few minutes. I love that I can customize my goals in the app, including a target body fat percentage—one wish however is that it would let me focus on that percent instead of my weight. Not a deal breaker, but a simple advanced setting would be nice.

Weight loss alone won’t necessarily lead to huge decreases in body fat since weight loss without exercise will lead to decreases in lean mass as well.  If you really want to decrease your body fat percentage you’ve got to eat better, do cardiovascular exercise AND remember to do resistance training to build up your lean mass, otherwise about 25% of every pound you lose will come from lean, calorie-burning muscle. 

American Council on Exercise

Photos from Fitbit

Learning how to fitness

I’ve been learning how to fitness lately. And by that I mean how to make fitness a routine. This word “routine” is one I truly hate. Perfect to me sounds like “flexibility” and “spontaneity” and, when used in succession, “we’ll figure it out when we get there.” I shudder, on the other hand, at “plans” and “routines.” That is, until I married a Program Manager who has hit the gym every day for years now (and who also happens to work at FitBit). He’s been a great first-hand example of some the good that can come from routines, so I’m trying it out—starting with making a routine of packing a gym bag.

Having the right gear (and keeping it accessible).

Of the things that’s increased the number of regular trips I’ve taken to the gym, having the right gear on hand is at the top of my list. Making a habit of packing my bag the night before with all the essentials keeps me on it. For me, that includes:

  1. Clothes and shoes
  2. Headphones
  3. A jump rope
  4. A lock
  5. A place to put my jewelry
  6. My FitBit
  7. A snack

I can’t say enough about the snacks, so I’ll stop myself there. It’s a game changer though, I promise. I also have a water bottle, but that’s always with me, so forgetting it has never really been a gym barrier.

On the shoes front, having an extra pair that’s always in my bag and a bit lighter weight has helped me fit this “routine” into my non-routine life as well. Case in point, this week I’m in Orlando for the Grace Hopper Celebration, and my streamlined New Balance Fresh Foam has low drop, so it fits into my bag without taking up room for other fun shoes 🙂 So far, I’m 3 for 3 on days I’ve fit the gym into my unpredictable schedule, and it feels great!

I guess my motto “stay messy and make shit happen” still applies, even with a bit of routine thrown in. So for today, stay sweaty, and make shit happen! Get after it.

From old to new: wardrobe cabinet to bar cabinet 🍸

My husband knows that if I’m having a bad day, or if he needs a bargaining chip, nine times out of ten a consignment store will do the trick.

On this particular day we made a trip to Consignment Classics in San Diego’s Point Loma neighborhood, where we found this gem:

Brown wardrobe cabinet

We were specifically looking for a piece that would make a great bar cabinet for our home. We have a beautiful but, let’s say “intimate” kitchen, and a bar cabinet would free up space in our kitchen cabinets, plus add space for napkins, candles, and and the fun kitchen non-essentials.

Design considerations

Price. West Elm and others have many options with timeless, classic styles but slightly higher price points than we were hoping for. We would have been open to budging on price depending on that arbitrary “but I love it” metric, but since we went in a rush we figured we could also shop around for a bit.

Function. We had picked out a specific spot close to the kitchen and dining room where having odds and ends related to cooking and eating would be convenient. I remember growing up, all the lovely linen napkins my mom had made lives upstairs, far away from the dining room. As a result, we used them rarely, primarily for holidays with a more formal meal. I wanted to be able to incorporate these gems into our dining experience everyday, so I wasn’t willing to budge on location even if we found a beautiful piece that was larger than this space would allow. If it wasn’t convenient, it wasn’t happening. In addition, because this space was the first thing we (or anyone else) would see when we walked in the door, we wanted opaque doors. I love a good cocktail, but booze isn’t so central to my life that I wanted “let’s have a drink” to be my welcome message to all. Finally, height. While we wanted to be spacious inside, we also wanted height above it for a mirror or artwork. Whole counter height would have been more functional overall, the height we ended up with isn’t all together unusable either.

Aesthetic. We have brown wood floors and a wood coffee table that we love, so something that added color (in potentially a cool compliment that created some balance) was on the list. Stylistically, there’s a small intersection in the “his and hers Venn diagram” of mine and my partner’s style. If modern-industrial farmhouse is a thing, we’ll call it that. If it’s not a thing, we’ll still call it that. Either way I’ll translate it to a bit of tradition with clean lines, form and function that support one another.

The refurb

With a piece that balanced our criteria nicely, we got to work! And when I say “we” I will be 100% transparent—I mean my dad. He is the ultimate in “if you want it done well, do it yourself” so he has picked up so many talents over the years that he is my go-to for all things DIY (a bit like the Internet). He helped us take inventory, figure out what tools we’d need, and pushed us to go a bit above and beyond on the patching (which was fun to learn, so ultimately I’m glad). 

Brown wardrobe cabinet with open doors
Ok, so I did have to convince my husband that these drawers were only going to be a slight pain to remove and replace with shelves… and I was mostly right.
Inside of brown wardrobe cabinet
Rungs that the drawers slid in and out on. We opted to leave the bottom one and insert a piece of wood that laid flush with it to create the bottom. The other two we removed with a mallet and chisels.
Removed rung from inside of cabinet.
Sanding down the cabinet.
Obligatory photo of me doing work, wearing a crazy outfit.
Top of the wardrobe cabinet
A couple spots needed patches, including the corner of the wood wood veneer on top that was separating from the base. We cut out a flush edge that would be easy to patch.
Cutting board and wood veneer pieces
We were able to borrow some scrap veneer from a neighbor and double it up to be the right thickness.
Clamps holding down wood veneer.
Wood glue and clamps held everything in place until it was dry.
Corner of cabinet with patch.
Complete patch with sanded and rounded corners.
Bottom of cabinet with patch.
The bigger spots we patched with veneer, the smaller spots we patched with a tub of wood patch.
Drawers painted with primer.
Primed drawers.
Cupboard doors hanging from wires
Hanging the cupboard doors for painting with wire hangers.
Wood with varnish.
Varnishing the inner cabinet shelves.
Fully primed cabinet.
The exterior complete and primed! The interior, testing possible shelving configuration.
Broken screw.
Hitting a snag along the way—screws for the hinges broke inside the door!
Dremel tool
Using a dremel to make space around the screw so we could pull it out.
Man using pliers to remove screw.
Removing the screw with pliers.
Broken screw, removed.
Tool to measure size of hole.
Measuring the size of the hole to find a dowel that would plug it back up.
Hole plugged with dowel.
Fixed—with a dowel and some wood glue! And ready to be re-drilled.
Look at that color!!
Look at all that room inside! And yes, our Roomba lives under the bar cabinet.
Now with a mirror and some succulents from the garden, the bar finally looks as great as it is functional. Success!

Stay messy and make shit happen, folks—even if it means getting paint in your hair, sawdust everywhere, and making a few mistakes along the way.

Some tools you might need along the way

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases you make using the links on this site. When possible, I’ll share content and projects that you can make with materials from thrift and consignment stores—but other times gear and tools are an essential part of your project or adventure!

Three books to inspire your garden makeover

I’m a designer by trade, which means I have lots of opinions when it comes to the design of my everyday environment. Some call me “particular,” although I prefer “intentional.” In many areas of my life, I have the skillset to execute upon the design concepts in my imagination. When it comes to designing with plants, however, it just isn’t so. Fortunately for me, I am armed and dangerous—with a library card, that is. I spent a Sunday afternoon this March at my local library browsing anything and everything in the gardening section. Spoiler alert: I shut the place down.

To save you endless hours of searching for *just the right book* (I would have faired well to opt for a little less perfect in this case) I’ve picked out a few of my favorites from the THIRTEEN books I brought home.

How to Plant a Garden, by Matt James

Designing California Native Gardens, by Glenn Keator and Alrie Middlebrook

Growing the Southwest Garden, by Judith Phillips

Stay messy and make shit happen—and when in doubt get that library card out!