Guest Bedroom | A $0 Transformation (maybe…)

These blustery, frigid winter days make me think forward to spring, warmer days, fresh air, and new life! I do love winter, and this was not always true of me. Embracing winter sports was key to me finding joy in winter. I can now say I own skis, and I can snowplow down the hill with the best of them (The best of the 3-year-olds, I mean. No, just kidding, they are better than I am!) In all seriousness, I do enjoy downhill skiing, and it makes winter so much more enjoyable.

On to my topic today, I think our guest bedroom needs a little freshening up! If you’ve looked through my home tour, you will see several rooms that have never had new pictures shared since we purchased the house. Since I’ve neglected to share the guest room, I’ll show you today what we did when we first moved in, and my plans to give it a freshening up now.

Here is the room when we moved in:

Wow, it’s so much blue-er than I remember!

We painted the walls, painted the trim, painted the ceiling, added a shelf to the closet, and laid new carpet. We set down furniture we already had and knick-knacks/books we didn’t know what to do with and…voila!

Guest Room king bed

Forgive the less wide angle shots, I don’t have the lens I took the original photos with anymore.

The walls are a sage green, white trim, and beige-speckled carpet. Even with editing, these photos are reading dark. The walls are lighter than the picture shows and definitely green. These almost look dark beige on my computer.

guest room windowThere is one, off-centered, window in the room (why are windows ALWAYS off-center??). It has a cellular shade, but nothing else pretty to dress up the window.

The wall adjacent to the door is blank, and it is here that I plan to do the most changing: DIY art, a dresser, and functional decor (blankets, wifi password, etc.)

guest room blank wallOne more shot of the whole room (almost)…

guest room

It’s a pretty blank slate. The wall color is fairly neutral. I wouldn’t mind painting the walls, but I’m trying to make this a $0 refresh, so new paint is not in the plans!

Here is my wish list that I hope to accomplish for this room:

  1. DIY Art – I’m thinking a “Be Our Guest” painting like this. I’ll be painting over the Ikea dot canvas that is resting on the ledge above the bed currently.
  2. Wifi Password Display – I’ll make my own, but something similar to this.
  3. Dresser – I’m going to move the dresser from the old nursery/current playroom down to this room. It is sitting empty up in the playroom, and I still really like that old dresser!
  4. Window Covering – I’m really up in the air on this one.
    1. The first thought I had was a cornice box. The drawbacks I see of this are (1) I’d have to buy wood to make it and (2) it wouldn’t flow with any other room in the house. Does it need to? Thoughts?
    2. The other thought is curtains, which I would sew myself. I love long curtains. However, this is a daylight basement room. It has that half-wall/ledge thing. I think long curtains would look weird, and I think short ones look odd too. I love curtains, but I’m not sure this is the right room for them.
    3. Fabric covered cornice box? I do like this one and this one. I really like the nailhead trim on the second one, but I don’t have those on hand.
    4. Barn door shutters? I’ve heard the hardware is expensive, and I think it’s a bit rustic for my tastes.
    5. I find this idea GENIUS. The long curtains plus precisely hung art perfectly trick the eye. Not the right solution for this room, but I love how that designer thought outside the box!
    6. Any other ideas I haven’t thought of? What have you use or seen in a daylight basement window?
  5. Headboard – I’d like to build a headboard for the guest bed using only scrap we have. Dan’s not 100% sure we can, so we may have to spend money on wood for this one, but I think a headboard will go a long way to making this room look welcoming and finished.
  6. Bedside Tables – The goal is to get one on either side of the bed. I’m planning to shop the house on this one and be creative! They will be small ones though because the bed in this room is king-size, and the room is not really king-sized. You do what you can with what you have, right??

If you’d like to see all my collected ideas, check out my Home | Guest Room board on Pinterest. While you’re there, follow me for more house and health inspiration!

Guest Room Mood BoardSources: 1 Paint | 2 Carpet | 3 Nailhead Cornice | 4 Book Display | 5 Be Our Guest Art | 6 Headboard | 7 Basket | 8 Dresser

I’m so excited to tackle a home project again! It feels like it’s been ages! I’ll be updating you as I go. Feel free to give your input! I could really use suggestions on the window covering, bedside tables, and even how to use or not use that half wall!


Daily Paleo Menu

Awhile back, I tried posting menu ideas for a days worth of meals. I’m going to resurrect these every now and then. Just so you know, these are slightly more difficult for me to do because I am not a food blogger. I am not cooking a meal in the morning with ideal lighting and creating the most perfect picture. These are meals we actually eat. In fact, the plate I photograph is usually my own, and I snap the picture before I take it to the table to eat it.

Just like everything on this blog, this is real life, pretty pictures and perfectly cooked eggs are not always a part of real life. Let’s jump in!

For more Paleo meal ideas, follow me on Pinterest! Check out my Paleo | XXXX boards for the inspiration I’ve gathered. My Tried & True | Paleo | XXXX boards are the recipes I’ve made and loved. Happy hunting!

Example: Paleo | Meal Ideas are all the recipes I’d like to try, and Tried & True | Paleo | Entrees are main courses I’ve made and loved.

I titled this post differently than the Gluten Free Menus I’ve posted in the past (1, 2, 3, 4). My diet has changed since I last posted those menus in Summer 2017. I am now eating a Paleo diet, not just gluten free. I do not eat any grains (wheat, corn, oats, barley, millet, etc.), diary, legumes, or white potatoes. These Daily Paleo Menus will reflect all of these restrictions, and yet, you will see varied, delicious food! There is so much awesome food out there! Restrictions do not need to steal your flavors or variety!

Another good note, is that my whole family is eating the same meal, kids included. I do not make them anything special. Yes, sometimes they say they don’t like something (kale most recently) but actually they do! I usually tell them something like, “We don’t always like the food placed in front of us, but God has provided it for us. It is nutritious. We will eat it, even if we don’t like it.” My kids are used to this explanation, and that is usually the end of the discussion.

I don’t expect your kids to accept an odd food right off the bat, but keep at it! They will get used to it, and they will learn that all food is delicious when prepared properly. In our house, Dan and I like to say there is no food we don’t like, only food we haven’t had prepared properly. 🙂

On to today’s menu!

Breakfast – Butternut Squash & Sausage Hash with Eggs

This is one of my favorite Paleo breakfasts. I plan on it every time I menu plan. It is a butternut squash and sausage hash topped with over medium eggs. I got the recipe from Danielle Walker’s cookbook Meals Made Simple. She does not have it on her website, and since I alter it, I will share it here.

  • 1 pound of breakfast sausage
  • 1T olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 butternut squash, cubed
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground sage
  • 1 apple, chopped
  • 2-3 cups of kale, chopped small
  • 2 eggs per person

Brown sausage in large skillet then remove from pan and set aside. Add olive oil to pan and saute onions until beginning to brown. Add butternut squash, salt, pepper, and sage. Cover and cook, stirring every couple minutes. Cook until squash is soft. Stir in apple. Cook un-covered a couple minute until apples just start to soften. Stir in sausage and kale. Cook until all is hot and kale is to desired consistency. Taste for seasoning, add salt and pepper as necessary. Remove from heat.

Cook eggs as you like. We prefer this dish with “dippy eggs,” AKA eggs over medium.

Serve in bowls topped with eggs.

Breakfast Hash Sausage EggLunch – Hodge-Podge Leftovers

This meal is a testament that you are likely never truly out of food. You can put a whole, nutritious meal together on very little!

I made a hash with 1 pound of chorizo I had in the freezer and whatever veggies I had in the fridge: zucchini and sweet potato. We wrapped that in Romaine lettuce and had carrot fries on the side.

These carrot fries are my kid’s favorite, by the way. My youngest can eat his body weight in them! I skip the bacon when I make these, and if I have bacon fat on hand, I will use that in place of the oil.

chorizo hash romaine lettuce carrot friesDinner – Chicken Curry over Cauliflower Rice

This is another favorite of ours. Both recipes, the curry and the cauliflower rice, come from Danielle Walker’s Meals Made Simple cookbook. This is a crock-pot recipe, so I schedule this meal on day I will be busy during the afternoon with no time to prepare dinner.

This cookbook is fantastic. I highly recommend you get a copy if you are trying to eat Paleo. This is a similar recipe on her website for the chicken curry. This is a similar recipe for the cauliflower rice, just leave out the cherries and herbs for a more “plain” rice.

chicken curry

A whole day of nutritious, whole food, Paleo meals…it can be done! What are your tips for quick or easy lunches, particularly when the regulars are gone? What is your go-to when it’s almost grocery shopping day?


Maximize Fresh Produce | Help for Green Onions

As we are wrapping up the menu planning series (click for parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5), I’ve gotten questions on affordability. How do we afford to eat a Paleo diet? Isn’t it expensive?

Yes, it is, and I’m still ruminating the cost of our diet question. I will share once I get my thoughts straightened out!

For today, I want to share one aspect of affording a whole foods, Paleo diet:

Don’t let your food rot in your fridge.

I know, shocking, right? If most of your fresh fruits and vegetables end up in the trash can, it is going to be pretty expensive if you end up buying them twice or three times.

Making a menu plan will solve a lot of that. You will only have the ingredients for the meals you plan to make. You won’t have that theoretically-good-to-snack-on-or-cook-with celery rotting in your fridge. You will only have celery in the fridge if it is actually an ingredient in one of the recipes you are going to make.

The problem I still run into, even with a menu plan, that I’d like to present to you today is what if you get ahead of your menu plan and veggies/fruit are hanging out in the fridge longer than intended?

I ran into this just this week. I had purchased two bags of green onions from Aldi (equivalent to 4-5 bunches of green onions from the regular grocery store. So…a lot!) for use in soups that I never made. I still plan to make them, but the meals I had planned this cycle ended up stretching farther than I thought they would.

So here I am with a whole bunch of green onions that are past their prime. Most have squishy, slimy green pieces. Some only have slight browned ends, mostly crisp and fresh still. They are on their way out. They will be a pile of stinky, mush if I leave them in the fridge too much longer.

Enter my amazing mother-in-law’s solution: snap off the slimy or brown parts, rinse them off, chop as usual, then toss in a zip-top bag and throw in the freezer!

It’s so simple, but I never thought of it. Freeze the vegetables that are about to go bad. Later, toss them into a soup or baked dish, and the consistency will not be noticeable!

Here are my tired green onions. Honestly, I’ve had way worse in my fridge, but I knew if I didn’t take care of these right away, they’d be a stinky mess in no time!

tired green onionsI pulled off all green strands that were slimy or discolored.

cleaning off dead partsThen I snapped off the ends of any pieces that looked dried or discolored. The difference here is I did not remove the entire green piece from the onion. The piece was still crunchy and fresh(ish) looking except the ends.

snapping off dead partsNext rinse each onion under cold water making sure to remove any remaining slimy parts. Since the onion is in layers, you will find that the entire layer is not always removed down to the white roots. Just make sure all the onions are cleaned up and fresh.

cleaned green onionsMove the onions to the cutting board. Remove the root ends then chop the rest of the onion.

chopped green onionsI, uh, had a lot of these in my fridge. I should’ve counted. I chopped at least 20! Yikes!

Put the chopped onions in a zip top bag, label it, and toss them in the freezer!

baggie green onionsThe next time I need to add green onions to a soup or egg casserole, I pull these out of the freezer and pour them in frozen. They do not freeze in a hard clump. They are easy to break up when frozen. I never thaw them before I add them to a dish. I know the consistency will be mushy, so I always add them to a dish that will get just a little bit more cooking. I would not use them as a raw topping, say on tacos.

There you have it! You never need to waste green onions again! Chop them up and throw them in the freezer! This tip, and many other like it, will help you use all of the vegetables you buy without wasting any.

Anyone else know this trick? I’ve also done it with bell peppers. Have you tried any other vegetables?

Save the green onions


Menu Planning 101, Part 5 | How to Stay the Course

Welcome to Menu Planning 101!

If you are just joining us, check out the first four parts of this series!

  1. Part 1 | The Dinners Only Menu Plan
  2. Part 2 | How to Make a Grocery List
  3. Part 3 | The EveryMeal Menu Plan
  4. Part 4 | How to Shop and Stay on Budget

Healthy Menu Plan

If you’ve stuck with me for five weeks now, I wonder how you are feeling about this. Does it seem like too much? Do you think “I could never stick to something like that!”

I understand because I’ve felt like that too. Every time I’ve made a dietary change, I’ve done so dragging my feet. I didn’t want to try harder to cook fresher meals. I didn’t want to spend more time in the kitchen, and I definitely didn’t want to spend more time doing dishes!

I realized within a day or two of beginning the elimination diet that this food thing was the real deal. My body DID respond differently when I fed it different food. If I wanted to control my diabetes through diet and without additional insulin, fresher meals were the only way. There was no going back. I knew this was something I had to do.

I’m all in now.

The reality sinks in. It can take hours to make dinner, and that’s not including clean-up. I quickly realized I needed to optimize the contents of my menu plan so that I’m not working myself to death every day.


5 Ways to Avoid Burnout and Stay the Course

Don’t Cook a New Meal Every Night

Leftovers are your friend! If you’ve never been a leftovers person, then I suggest you try again!

Plan to have at least 1 meal extra from every meal you cook. That one meal could be lunch the next day or it could be dinner for the next evening.

For example, I made white chicken chili tonight for dinner. I doubled the recipe so I could have it again for dinner tomorrow night. I am planning on simple tuna patties so I don’t need to worry about lunch for tomorrow. With this simple bit of planning and cooking (making double a recipe barely takes longer), I’ve set myself up to not cook for dinner tomorrow night. This saves me hours the next day!

Re-Purpose Leftovers

If you do struggle with eating leftovers, change them up when you serve them again.

If I’ve made tacos for dinner one night, then I will bake sweet potatoes and load them up with the taco meat and other toppings (avocado, salsa, onion, etc.) for dinner the next night.

If I made a side of sweet potatoes with cranberries for dinner, then the next morning, I will use them in a sweet potato casserole for breakfast.

If I have leftover root vegetable mash from dinner last night, I will add a little almond flour to them and fry it like pancakes for breakfast. Serve with eggs and sausage for a savory, delicious meal.

Don’t throw the scraps from dinner away! If you have one severing of broccoli leftover, mix it with scrambled eggs in the morning and serve with a side of sausage or bacon.

Try to re-purpose or just use up any and all leftovers.  Think of a way you could use them in another meal. You will be surprised how little leftovers you need to create a whole new meal.

Plan Meals to Eat Out

If your budget allows it, plan in meals to eat at a restaurant. Everyone needs a break, and if you are carrying the burden of cooking all the meals, you do need a break. Schedule it in. Plan on it so it doesn’t break your budget.

When that meal comes, relish it! Don’t get lost in the chaos of eating out (if you have kids that is!). Notice your food. Appreciate the taste. Laugh at your kids antics. Be grateful for those who cooked it. Savor your bites. Eat slowly. Work to appreciate the meal and the break. You will be ready to hit the kitchen for the next meal because you have taken time to truly appreciate the break.

Get Help

If your significant other is willing to cook, ask them to step in and take a meal. At the very least, ask them to help you cook or sit and chat with you while you do. That way you don’t feel like the family servant or missing out on the fun family times.

Not only let your kids help, but teach them cooking skills so they can help you tonight and in the future. The first thing I teach my kids is to stir. I let them stir while I add ingredients or work on another dish. The second thing I teach them is how to cut. We  have these knives, and I can give my oldest strips of just about any vegetable for him to chop into bite-size pieces.

Yes, it is harder initially to cook with your kids, but what you are building in them and help for you are so worth it. I won’t go on. Cooking with your kids is a whole different topic that I’m passionate about! I’ll spare you until another day!

Choose Joy

Here’s the truth, folks.

Even if you do cook every meal…Even if you never get to eat out (It’s rarely in our budget!)…Even if no one helps you…Even if no one says thank you…

You can choose to be joyful in planning, preparing, and cooking food for you and your family.

Yes, it will be hard some days, but the practice of choosing joy will get easier the more you practice it.

My joy stems from Jesus. Not only does He love me with an unfailing love and He has covered all my sin with His blood, He has provided food for my family! He’s provided a warm house for me to cook in! He’s provided knives and pots to prepare and cook nutritious food. He’s given me life and health and the knowledge to preserve those. He’s given me my family to care for.

With all those gifts, how can I not choose to be joyful?

In summary, you can do it! (That’s my mom’s motto. I hear you every time I say it, Mom!) Plan well enough that you can take nights off cooking whether from leftovers, a restaurant, or someone else cooking. Choose to enjoy the process of cooking for your family.

Avoid Menu Planning Burnout

This ends the five week series on menu planning! This is not a theoretical exercise, I do this every two weeks. I know how hard it is, and yet, I know that it can be done. Your health, energy, and life will be better for the effort you put into healthy meals.

Do share your thoughts! Are you inspired to change how you grocery shop or menu plan? Have you put any of the documents I shared to use? Any tips you have that I didn’t cover? Any questions you’d like me to answer? Comment below or email! Let’s talk!

Fostering a Grateful Heart | Continuous Grates on Range

I show to you another small, but wonderful, part of my home: the stove top on the range. A very small area, and yet, I am so grateful for the continuous grate feature over and over again. Are you ready for me to wax poetic about my stove top? I am! Ha! I could sing the praises of all my appliances in one way or another (and I just may one day!). They are such workhorses that get a great work-out each and every day.

Let’s talk about the grates on my stove!

GratefulnessWhen we decided to purchase a foreclosure, we knew all of the appliances would need to be purchased new. I had never purchased appliances on my own. In our first house, I had the help of parents for the washer and dryer and the rest came with the house.

When researching for a range for our current house, we were so thankful the house was already equipped for a gas stove. Both my husband and I love to cook, and we much prefer a gas range.

I was fortunate enough to be carpooling with a lady who had purchased a foreclosure a year or so prior to the purchase of ours. She informed me that our mutual place of work had a discount program with Whirlpool. She was very happy with her appliances, so we decided to purchase ours through this program too.

Now since we limited our search to what was available from Whirlpool through my work program, we had far fewer ranges to search through. A blessing looking back, there are SO many companies out there to choose from! We decided on the Whirlpool Gold line, and I found a range with 2 power burners.

The burners on our very inexpensive apartment stove did not satisfy our cooking abilities, so it was basically this feature alone that sold the stove to me. That and price. We weren’t looking to break the bank on the stove. I believe paid around $550 for the stove. This one is a little fancier (we don’t have 5 burners) but similar. The best part, price-wise, the deliverers dented the side of the stove in transit so they gave us a discount. We ended up paying under $500 for the stove. It has been worth every penny in my opinion!

gas range with continuous grates

I can’t remember thinking too much about the grates on the stove, but I am so thankful for continuous grates. Continuous grates run, wait for it…continuously, from the left to the right side of the stove and from front to back.

gas rangeThe beauty of this feature? My very normal, 30 inch range can hold massive pans. The grates don’t wobble or wiggle if the pan is really too large for the burner. I have a massive cast iron dutch oven that can cover two burners. The stove handles this with easy with no extra finagling from me to get the pot on or off the stove.

Another great aspect? You can slide a pan from one part of the stove to the other without jarring the other grates. Think of delicate sauces that you must remove from heat at the right moment. No problem. A quick slide with one hand while the other turns off the heat. Need to fill up every burner for Thanksgiving dinner? Just slide those pans around like a slide puzzle!

Side note: Anyone really dislike those games as a kid? We always had several kinds lying around, and I would try but get frustrated and give up easily. Puzzles are not my thing!

The grates are cast iron so they don’t move easily. I’ve never had trouble with them shifting, and I give my stove a work-out regularly!

gas range gratesThey are a bit heavy to move for cleaning, but they don’t hold a candle to the weight of my other cast iron pans, so I think nothing of their weight! For daily cleaning, I just wipe the grates down with a Norwex cloth. For a deeper clean a couple times a year, I put them in the sink for a good scrub.

Notice the discoloration around the burners above, I wonder now if I’m caring for the grates properly? I oil my cast iron pans after each us, but I’ve never oiled these! I might need to start that. Anyone know the proper way to care for these?

If you’re in the market for a a new gas range and don’t want to spend a fortune, I’d look for continuous grates first! And if you’re interested I’d also look for high power burners and a simmer burner.

Do you have an appliances that have really shined for you, and you didn’t even plan it that way? Do you absolutely love one that you didn’t even spend that much time picking out?


Type 1 Diabetes Management | The Dawn Phenomenon

type 1 diabetes

In my effort to fix my morning blood sugar numbers, I did an experiment testing my blood sugar in the middle of the night, 2:30am to be exact. I wanted to see if my blood sugar decreases from my pre-bed reading which usually involves a recent snack. My hope was that my blood sugar goes down overnight then sometime before I wake up, it rises. Stated another way, I hope my blood sugar level does not stay elevated all night. If it does, that’s a problem.

There is a physiological situation called the dawn phenomenon. This is something everyone’s body does. It’s a hormone dump into your system to prepare your body to wake up and go for the day (VERY summarized, read up on it!). A non-diabetic’s pancreas will adjust the insulin need in the body to correct for this additional sugar in the bloodstream, resulting in no or little change to the body’s blood sugar level. An insulin-dependent diabetic may not have anything to cover this surge, or as in my case, the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to manage the surge.

For an insulin-dependent type 1 diabetic, adjustments to quantity and timing of insulin doses needs to occur or when carbohydrates are eaten. For me, well, I’m going to try to figure this out without starting to take insulin because that is how I roll!

The way to know if you are experiencing a dawn phenomenon is to test your blood glucose in the middle of the night (2am-3am) a couple nights in a row. If those readings are normal, then you can assume the reason for high blood glucose in the morning is the dawn effect which is short-lived and likely harmless.

Remember to hold everything else constant while trying these tests! Bedtime, diet, rise-time, alcohol consumption, etc. everything needs to stay the same.

Since I have been struggling with my morning blood glucose numbers, I did a 4 night test to see if I have the dawn phenomenon.

Day 1

Pre-Bed BG (10pm): 147

Mid-Sleep BG (2:30am): 136

Fasting BG (6am): 166

Day 2

Pre-Bed BG (10pm): 110 (Alcohol before bed. I broke my own rule!)

Mid-Sleep BG (2:30am): 128

Fasting BG (6am): 152

Day 3

Pre-Bed BG (10pm): 151

Mid-Sleep BG (2:30am): 128

Fasting BG (6am): 147

Day 4

Pre-Bed BG (10pm): 149

Mid-Sleep BG (2:30am): 132

Fasting BG (6am): 145

My 2:30am reading is pretty steady at 128-135. That makes me feel pretty good! I’ve never tested myself in the middle of the night since being off insulin, so I’m so happy that my pancreas is doing its job even when I’m sleeping.

I’ll be consulting with my endocrinologist soon, but to my eyes, the dawn phenomenon seems to be happening. My blood sugar goes down initially, but sometime after 2:30am it starts to rise. I will still be striving to make good food and lifestyle choices, but it looks to me that I can’t do anything about that morning number.

That sounds so defeatist as I type that! I’ve learned there usually IS something that can be done. When I learn more and fix it, I’ll update!

**Update: In between the time I wrote this post and actually publishing it, I DID figure something else out! As you may know, I am sensitive to dairy, so I have cut that completely out of my diet. When shopping for Thanksgiving, I picked up some chocolate covered fruit. I like to have filled candy dishes on my fireplace when guests are around. Don’t we all need sweets on holidays???

You know I bought them at Costco, so the bag was huge. We loved them. Who wouldn’t? So I bought another bag for our guests, I mean us, at Christmas.

Then a friend gave us a bunch of my most favorite candy: York peppermint patties. I only had 1 per day. Totally justified, right??

Both of those items have dairy in them. Sigh.

I stopped eating them, and in 3 days, my morning blood sugar was back in the 130’s in the morning. I’m still not below 130 first thing, but in the 130’s is so much better than 140-170!

Now I’m not sure I have the dawn phenomenon going on, or at least it is somewhat managed by my almost-dead pancreas. I decided to go ahead and publish this information just in case it helps other diabetics out there! Feel free to comment with any questions or shoot me an email!**

Any other health struggles you are experiencing that you have to use your body as a test lab? Does it defeat you or do you strive to defeat it? I bet you know which camp I’m in! The more I experiment with my body, the more I am amazed by the intricate, complex body God has made. Isn’t it amazing how it works or doesn’t work and what can fix it?


Type 1 Diabetes Management | High Morning Blood Sugar

My morning blood sugar level is the hardest one for me to control. This one leaves me scratching my head the most often, what happened? Why is this number out of range? What did I eat? What did I drink? etc.

I hope to give you some ideas of what to do or areas to check into if your morning blood sugar is out of range. These are strategies that I actually use. I’m not telling you the hard things to do without having done them myself!

To level set, I am a Type 1 diabetic. I am not using artificial insulin. I am keeping my pancreas alive and blood glucose in range with a Paleo diet [I am not eating grains (gluten or not: oats, corn, wheat, etc.), dairy,  legumes, or white-fleshed potatoes.] and good lifestyle habits (which you’ll see below!).

I am still a Type 1 diabetic even though my C-peptide levels are normal. My pancreas is functioning, although at a lower level, and the antibody GAD 65 is still present in my body (the antibody used to diagnosis Type 1 diabetes) at higher than normal levels (at least I believe it is, my one year check-up in a few months I think will re-check this.).

I check my blood glucose levels four times a day: fasting when I first get up, prior to lunch, prior to dinner, and prior to bed. My blood glucose goals are as follows:

Pre-Meal Goal: <130

I have virtually no issue keeping the lunch and dinner levels below 130. I am a stay-at-home mom so I am active most of the day caring for my house and children.

Pre-Bed Goal: 100-150

I sometimes have an issue being below 150 if my snack is too high in carbohydrates or too close to bedtime. Having a snack later in the evening is not an issue per se, I just need to realize how long ago I ate when I check my blood sugar to know if I’m in range or not.

Fasting Goal: <130

This is my problem child. Since the holidays, I’ve had a hard time waking up less than 150 let alone 130. Lately, my blood glucose is mid-150’s in the morning.

Since I’ve struggled with this problem, I’m assuming other diabetics have as well. Below are my strategies for lowering my morning blood sugar. These are things I do to make sure my life and diet are on track when my blood glucose is not where it should be.

6 Strategies to Lower BG

6 Strategies to Keep Morning Blood Sugar in Check

Early to bed, early to rise… – Am I going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every day? Am I binge watching a Netflix show?  Are my kids sick making it hard to get up on time in the morning? OR is my sleep so disrupted that perhaps lack of rest is making me high in the morning?

Solution: Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time ever morning. I know this is SO hard, but this is the single biggest factor second only to my diet to manage my morning blood sugar. I actually have a meeting scheduled on my personal calendar with an alarm to remind me to go to bed. It goes off bzz-bzz-bzz every night at 9:45pm. (Want to know how weird I am? My event reminder buzz is three buzzes in a row. When I hear this ever night it sound like “Go-To-Bed” to me. Ha!)

Diet – Did my diet change? Did I just introduce a taboo item to try it out (goat cheese for example!)? Did I accidentally eat gluten? This is usually the cause of BG over 160 in the morning, for me. Am I still riding out a gluten experience? It takes me at least a week to have my morning blood glucose return to normal after being exposed to gluten.

Solution: Stop consuming all food and drinks that you think may have caused the spike. Wait a week or two to see if your blood glucose returns to normal ranges. Then carefully, one at a time, introduce those foods/drinks back into your diet to test them out.

Carbohydrates – Am I eating too many in general? Am I eating too many before bed? Quality matters. Did I have sugar, candy, refined sugar before bed or did I just have some nuts?

Solution: Take a good look at my diet. Redirect carbohydrate intake to vegetables and fruit. Reduce processed foods (eliminate completely, ideally!).

Alcohol – Am I drinking too much or too frequently? Alcohol is not processed by the body in the same way food is. It gets filtered through the liver first which takes care of the alcohol then releases the sugar into the blood stream. Therefore, sugar/carbohydrates have a delayed effect on blood glucose when they come from alcohol. I’ve noticed that a glass of wine or cider (gluten-free!) gives me a stellar pre-bed blood glucose (usually 100-120), but it will often give me a high morning reading (150-170).

Solution: Less alcohol, less frequent (as in once or twice a week), or drop alcohol all together. It can irritate the gut leading to a host of issues other than raising blood sugar.

Exercise  – Am I consistently active? Have I fallen off the exercise wagon? Daily exercise is a must for me. I work-out 5 days a week with a light stretching or Pilates/yoga routine on Saturdays. I only take Sunday off. If I slack off and stop working out, my morning sugar slowly rises. It takes a week or so of consistency to start to see my numbers go back down.

Solution: Find a exercise routine that works for you. I’m not suggesting you do cross-fit every day. I don’t! We all need to be active, find a time and activity that is fun for you! I do a Fitness Blender routine in my basement first thing in the morning, Monday through Saturday. Maybe you like to take walks, ski, swim, take a fitness class, or run on a treadmill. What ever it is, get up and get moving consistently!

Water – Did I drink water today? Did I only drink coffee today (haha, guilty sometimes!)? One thing I take inventory of when my blood glucose is too high is how much water am I drinking. Everyone needs to drink water. We all know this, but I know I struggle to remember to drink it most days.  Perhaps I only had 1 or 2 glasses, which is clearly not enough. Once I course correct on this one, I see immediate improvement in all of my numbers throughout the day.

Solution: Use a water bottle so you can measure how much water you are drinking. I have a 20 ounce water bottle, and I try to drink 3 of them each day. Another motivator is using MyFitnessPal  to track water intake (This is also a great tool for food, exercise, and weight tracking!).

What if all of these are in line (and you’ve consistently followed these for a week or more) and your blood sugar is still higher than desired in the morning? That could be the dawn phenomenon. I suspect I am experiencing this so I conducted an experiment on myself. I’ll share more on this tomorrow!

Those are my strategies for keeping my morning blood sugar in check. Do you have any other tips to add? Do you struggle with your blood glucose readings at a particular time of day over another? Have you identified the source of the higher numbers?

A lifestyle like this takes, work, believe me, I know! How can I encourage you to say the course?


Menu Planning 101, Part 4 | How to Shop & Stay on Budget

Welcome to Menu Planning 101!

If you are new to the series, please visit:

Healthy Menu Plan


Shopping for an Every Meal Menu plan is not for the faint of heart, particularly if you are shopping with kids (as I am!). There are three things you need to figure out before heading out:

  1. The Driving Route
  2. The Route Through the Store
  3. How to Stay in Budget as You Shop

Just like your meals need a plan, the shopping trip needs a plan. Take a few minutes to think through your plan of attack before you head out, and it will save you time and frustration as you shop.

The Driving Route

What is the most effective and efficient route for you to travel to your various stores? I don’t follow a logical distance, as in furthest from my house and work my way back to my house. I use a cost-effective route (for my budget!).

I begin my shopping at Aldi which I know will have the lowest prices on every day items. Aldi has special buys each week which might allow me to pick up a seasonal item at a discount, which will save me money at the other stores.

Then I go to Meijer, our local supermarket chain, and I pick up all the items that Aldi does not have that week and additional less-common fruits, veggies, or international items.

My last stop is Costco. Costco’s offerings are usually the same from week to week, so I pick up our usual items (coffee, eggs, meat, crackers, toilet paper, etc.) quickly. The layout of this store rarely changes too.

The Route Through the Store

I have a different route through each store based on the stores layout. My goal is maximize efficiency and get myself and my kids out of the store as quickly as possible. As I mentioned before, I am not a grocery shopping lover. It is just a necessary evil to put food on the table. My goal is to make it as quick and efficient as possible.

I recommend thinking about the most effective route through your stores and putting your grocery list in that  order before you leave home. To give you an idea of what I mean, here’s each of my routes:


I think of Aldi’s layout like a maze. You enter at one end and exit at the other. The entrance is not connected to the exit which makes backtracking very difficult. I try to avoid backtracking in all stores, but especially Aldi.

Aldi’s layout also rarely changes, so once I familiarized myself with the store, I memorized the best order to shop in. Aldi is my fastest store. I am usually in and out in 20 minutes. Yes!

My route:

  1. Nuts
  2. Condiments
  3. Baking Items
  4. Canned Goods
  5. Fresh Vegetables
  6. Fresh Fruit
  7. Frozen Vegetables

Meijer sells evrything including the kitchen sink. I am purposeful to only walk down the aisles I need to. This store takes the longest to get through (for a reason! I’m know they have their layout to maximize sales!), so I take extra thought to attack this store efficiently.

In general, my method is back of the store to the front of the store so I end my shopping by the check-outs. If I need to pick up any toiletry items, I pick those up first because they are located on the opposite side of the store from the groceries.

My route through Meijer:

  1. Toiletries
  2. Fresh Meat
  3. Produce (vegetables and fruit are all mixed together)
  4. Baking Needs
  5. International Items

I’m sure you’ve heard of the phrase “shop the perimeter” of grocery stores to find the healthier items. I follow this but without planning to! I primarily buy fresh meat, fruit, and veggies which are on the perimeter. The only aisles I go down are the baking aisle for spices and gluten-free baking items, and the international aisle for things like adobo chilis and canned tomato products.


Costco’s layout is roughly the same too: household items on the right side, grocery in the back and left, and seasonal in the middle. If you can guess, I don’t go in the middle section. The middle section is a budget-breaker, in my opinion! It is filled with snack foods, candy, and all the household/clothing items you all the sudden think you need!

I walk through the store in a “U”: up the household side, through the back of the store then down the right side, ending at the check-out.

My route through Costco:

  1. Household items
  2. Fresh Produce
  3. Fresh Meat
  4. Eggs
  5. Frozen Items
  6. Baking Needs
  7. Pantry Items

How to Stay on Budget When You Shop

Remember back to Part 2 – How to Make a Grocery List, and I recommended estimating the cost of each menu item as you make the grocery list? Here is where that comes into use.

First, your entire grocery list should be edited to fit into your budgeted amount before you leave the house. There’s no sense in heading to the store with a list that is already $100 over what you have to spend. If that happens (and it will!), here’s some tricks to bring it down into the right range.

  1. Make simpler meals with in season vegetables and fruit. Out of season food always costs more (and is less tasty!) so try to use what is in season. Odds are it will be on sale too because the grocery store has a ton of it!
  2. Buy lesser quality meat and eggs. This is a hard one for me to say. I am totally against pesticides, hormone treated animals, etc., but the truth of the matter is, not everyone can afford it. Personally, we’ve downgraded the quality of our eggs because I buy 7+ dozen every time I shop. My budget cannot afford that many free-range, organic eggs. I believe (hope?) the benefit you get from eating fresh, whole foods outweighs the bad of lower quality meat/eggs.
  3. Buy less meat. Meat is expensive. If you are making chili and the recipe calls for 2 pounds of meat, try using just one and adding an inexpensive vegetable instead (throw in pumpkin puree as a thickener, cubed butternut squash, chopped zucchini, etc.).
  4. Repeat well-liked, simple meals. This is the one I struggle with yet fall back on when my grocery list is too pricey. I love variety, but at least for me, variety can be expensive. So I cross out the more expensive meal and replace it with a more reasonable one I already have planned. For me, spaghetti squash with meat sauce is fairly inexpensive, filling, and everyone likes it. Planning this meal for 2 meals out of my two weeks instead of just one would save my budget some $$.

Now as you shop, keep track of what you’ve spent. I do this by entering each store’s receipt into my YNAB (You Need a Budget) app as I leave each store. You could also do this by editing the grocery list (if you use my spreadsheet) as you go through the store. However you choose to do it, you need to be keeping track as you shop.

Then comes the hard decision. What if you are going to go over budget? Where should you make cuts as you shop?

Quick interjection: If you made your list fit your budget before you left home, any adjustment that might need to be made in the store should be minor, not major.

  1. Choose to buy the small sized item that will still fit your needs but may cost more per ounce. I just made this decision when I last shopped! I needed to buy vanilla, and I planned to buy it at Costco. I thought the price would be around $15 which I budgeted for. When I arrived at the store, it was $26! Yikes! Since Costco was my last stop, I didn’t buy the vanilla at all. I chose to wait until the next shopping trip (which I still couldn’t budget $26 for vanilla) and buy the small bottle at Aldi for $4. I know I am spending more in the long run, but I don’t think a larger bottle of vanilla is worth going over budget for.
  2. Choose the store brand. This will likely be cheaper than name brand, and yes, there is possibly a taste difference. You and your family will live though! I guarantee it! 🙂
  3. Buy the less convenient item. I’m looking at you canned beans! If you are really tight, buy the dried beans instead of canned. You will get SO many more beans from a $1 bag of dried beans than that 15.5 ounce can of prepared beans.
  4. Buy in bulk instead of convenience packaging. I’m not thinking about flour, nuts, dried fruit, etc, although that may save you money too. I’m thinking of fresh produce. Our store has a salad section that has lovely, washed varieties of salad greens in nice plastic bags or even plastic containers. This is the most expensive way to eat a salad! Look very close by there and you will see bunches of kale, spinach, lettuce, all manner of greens for $1-$2 a bunch. That bunch will have WAY more food than the entire bag of pre-made lettuce mix (maybe even two or three bags!). Learn how to wash and store these greens, and you will have way more salads/soups/sides for less money.
  5. Last, and most difficult, just stop putting items into your cart when you’ve run out of money. Now, this shouldn’t happen because you’ve estimated your grocery need when you made your list, before you ever left your house. However, maybe everything you planned to buy was more expensive than you guessed. To keep your budget and marital happiness on track, I suggest to you to just stop, go to the check-out, and leave the store. You can get your creative juices flowing at home with how to make meals with what you were able to buy. Just start searching on Pinterest. I’m 100% sure you will be just fine and not go hungry!

Whew! That was a lot of information! In summary, make a plan before you leave your home: know your route to the stores, through the stores, and how you will stay on budget as you shop. This will guarantee a successful shopping trip and the beginning of a two week (for me!) time period of delicious meals.

Do you have any wisdom to share on this topic? How do you optimize your grocery trip? Do you have tips and tricks to staying in budget? Do you shop every week? Every two weeks? Every day?

Menu Plan with Budget

Fostering a Grateful Heart | Sunlight

I am practicing gratefulness of my home. To see more posts in the Fostering a Grateful Heart series, click here.


One aspect of my home that is easy for me to see in real life but hard to photograph is sunlight. We have good sized windows that let in a lot of light. I haven’t quite learned the trick to photographing windows, but this is my area of gratefulness today: large windows that let in a lot of sunlight.

I notice it in our hallway the most. I love the light streaming into the hallway from all the rooms.

Bright Hallway

All of our bedrooms have good sized windows so the rooms never feel tight or small.

They do require large curtains though!

I don’t think these windows are anything uncommon. Our house was built as a spec house, so there isn’t anything fancy about it. I think our house is just new enough to have larger bedroom windows (our house is about 20 years old).

I mostly think of the light in sharp contrast to the house I grew up in. The windows were about half the size of these. I remember doing fire drills with my siblings, and we had to boost each other up to get out the window! The windows were quite high up on the wall! My 2 and 4 year old could climb out these if they wanted to. They are so much lower to the ground than older windows.

Our living room is south facing so very bright and warm when it’s sunny. We spend most of our time on this floor of our house. I love that it is so bright.

Bright Living RoomHaving more light in a home is a mood booster for me too. The apartment we rented before purchasing this house had one large window on the south side of the apartment and one sliding glass door on the north side. The sliding door led to a covered deck so there was extremely limited light coming in that way. There were no other windows in the apartment!

That apartment was so dark, all the time. Walking into this house was a breath of fresh air. Each room felt so light and airy, in sharp contrast to the dungeon we were living in!

I am so grateful we were able to purchase a house that has large windows and is south facing. The amount of light we get each day is significant and wonderful!

This post was a challenge for my photography skills. I see some definite needs for improvement. Sunlight is hard to capture!

Do you have a bright, airy house? Are you in a dark dungeon like we were? If you crave more light, here are some easy ways to get more in:

  • Strategically placed mirrors
  • Hang curtains high and wide so they don’t block an inch of the window
  • Move furniture so no windows are blocked

Grateful For Light


Dovetailed Wood Trays

Or should the title read “Wood Trays with Dovetails?” Can “dovetail” be a verb? If you know, enlighten me!

Our Christmas gift to ourselves was a dovetail jig! The primary purpose was to finish our buffet which has three drawers in the middle of it. We roughly followed these plans by Ana White, but ours will look much different. We changed just about every aspect of it except that it is a long buffet with three drawers in the middle with doors/shelves on either side.

I can’t wait to show you that project! It’s been a long time in the making! In fact, we started it last January…January 2017. We’re one year in! Yikes!

We’ve learned so much about woodworking in that year though and have acquired many tools and such to complete the buffet. I’ll be showing it soon, hopefully!

The wood project today is three wood trays to hold various odds and ends in one of our kitchen cabinets. The bottom shelf of this cabinet gets crammed with this and that, things that have no real home (like the toilet paper! Ha, actually we use this for wiping noses, too cheap to buy Kleenex in this house!). It holds our vitamins, my diabetes testing supplies, the boy’s candy, and tea.

disorganized cabinetTruthfully, Dan was just looking for an area in our home that could use wood boxes. He needed to practice with the dovetail jig before tackling the buffet drawers. It is quite the machine and takes a lot of skill and practice. Even though the jig’s purpose is to make dovetailing easier, it still takes quite a bit of knowledge, planning, and careful cutting!

So Dan built three beautiful boxes to fit side-by-side in this cabinet. They are just deep enough to fit inside the face frame and wide enough to fill the shelf width with a little wiggle room in between the boxes.

raw wood trayThis is a dovetail joint, for those of you who don’t know! It is the cutouts that fit a corner of a wood box together. It is an extremely strong joint that fits together snugly. There are no nails or screws used, only a bit of wood glue. If you are looking for quality wood furniture, dovetail joints for any drawers is something to look for.

raw wood dovetailSolid wood must be used to make dovetails because plywood will splinter. How do we know this??? Of course we had to try to dovetail plywood. We have a lot on hand, and we are ones who tend to need to learn for ourselves. Our conclusion: maybe it could be done, but so much care needs to go into it, it is easier to just use solid wood, just like all the experts say. Now you know.

Dan used poplar to build these boxes, and I thought it might be fun to stain them then use the varnish oil I’ve used in other projects.

This was not the greatest decision. I thought the wood grain would pop through the stain, but it didn’t. Instead, the stain amplified every little hair of grain, resulting in a very rustic looking box.

After doing some research, we discovered that stain is only used to make “bad” wood look good (like pine) while clear coats are used to make “good” wood look all the better. Again, that’s what we’re here for, to help you not make our mistakes! Don’t stain good wood!

Here are the products I used to finish the boxes. Again, don’t stain the wood like I did! Unless this rustic look is what you’re going for, then by all means, stain away!

wood tray finishing products

Because I like to see my work progress, I took pictures each step of the way from raw wood through three coats of varnish.

tray finish progressionNotice how every little hair of grain is showing? I would have preferred just the major lines show through, but overall, I still like how the boxes look. They are just more rustic than I intended.

After sorting though all the stuff in the cabinet (and throwing some really old stuff away!), here she is with the new boxes!

organized cabinetHaha, not that much of a change, huh?

It’s hard to tell, but I did pair down the things that we weren’t using or were expired and grouped like items together.


organized vitaminsDiabetes Supplies (and hand cream and Dixie cups, apparently! One can only be so organized! Oh and that isn’t bubbles! It’s my sharps container to dispose of my lancets properly.):

diabetes testing suppliesCandy and Tea:

tea and treatsHere’s another little before and after with all three boxes together:

Wood traysThey’re such pretty little boxes! Aren’t they?

They may find a home elsewhere in the house eventually because they are too pretty to hide in a cabinet all their life!

This was a fun little practice project for us! When you tackle a DIY project do you do a smaller, test run one first? Do you go full speed ahead into the big one? We’ve done it both ways! I’d love to hear your tales below!