Sunday, September 23, 2012

Fresh and Clean

Alright folks, this is not my usual blog post. ''s not about decorating. But it is about my life and this is my blog so I guess it fits : )

Yesterday I took the plunge on something I've been thinking about for 6+ months...eating clean. As in, I made a week's meal plan, went to the store, and bought organic things. So we'll see how this goes.

I've known for a long time the health benefits of eating less processed foods and adding more fresh fruits and veggies, lean meats and whole grains. It's not like I don't know how important that is, but I felt overwhelmed at the thought of trying to eat totally clean. Not to mention, my life has had some drastic changes the last six months. I've taken on tons of added responsibility and hours at work, plus started a business. But really, that's lead me to where I am. About 12 pounds above where I need to be, with no real plan or control over what I'm eating. And in the busiest months, I've even started eating fast food 2-3 times per month. That doesn't sound like a lot but it's movement in a direction I just don't want to go.

So today I decided to do things differently...but in baby steps. I'm not a terribly disciplined person. I think I like to have fun a little too much to be one of those people who religiously only eats carrots and kale or something. But, I can do better that what I'm doing right now. It's all about healthier choices to lead to a healthier me. And let's be honest, life will still be busy. I'll still be running around like a chicken with my head cut off, I just want to be a skinnier, healthier chicken : )

The thing that really pushed me over the edge was this blog post by a friend I went to high school with. She changed her lifestyle and has seen great results. Somehow it helped that I know her. That an actual real-life person I know and talk to has seen results made a difference to me (not some skinny model or gimmicky TV guy). Her story is pretty cool, and I figured if she could do it, so could I.

Let me say this up front...I am NOT going for perfection. Or even totally and completely clean eating. I'm going for mostly clean, more healthy and overall better choices. I'm NOT going to starve myself, I'm going to eat as much as I want of things that are good for me. I'm not even really doing this to lose weight, although I bet if I stick to it I will. I am doing it for health reasons - to live longer and avoid health problems and diseases later in life. I'm also doing it because every time I think about having kids, I always think that I would want them to eat clean...well I better figure out how to do that before they get here!

Here are some of the changes I hope to make over the next few weeks. I know that I WILL mess up. I WILL have weak moments and things won't be perfect. But I'm trying to make slow, gradual changes that I can work into a lifestyle.

{haha- most bread is totally not clean or really that healthy, but I just thought this picture was pretty : )

Healthy Changes

1. Meal Plan - every single meal and snack. I'm terrible at this. We'll see how it goes. Right now my meal plan is in a google doc which should make things easier since I can access it anywhere. And for now my rule is going to be if it's not on my scheduled plan, I cannot eat it. (I got a lot of ideas and tips right here if you'd like to do this too.)

2. Eat Breakfast - if you know me, you know I'm not a breakfast eater. But, I think I could sip on a fruit smoothie or handle a scrambled egg before heading out the door. I think it'll help my metabolism and also my mood in the morning (which is a serious problem - to say I'm not a morning person is putting it lightly : )

3. Replace milk and creamer with almond milk - My vice is highly sugary coffee every morning. I don't drink pop, so this is my "thing." I'm going to try to wean myself off the creamer and use unsweetened almond milk in its place. I'm also going to try to slowly do without splenda in my coffee. I know it won't happen overnight, but I'll get there.

4. Cut out the CRAP (carbonated beverages, refined sugar, artificial sweeteners and colors, processed foods) At the store I bought organic cherry tomatoes instead of cheese-its (tear), pears instead of peanut butter sandwich crackers, and natural almond butter instead of sugary processed Jiff. I also learned to check labels on everything because you would be shocked how many things have added sugar (think pasta sauce, canned veggies, etc.). The carbonated beverages won't be difficult without pop, except I have to admit I have gone a tad bit overboard on the beer lately. Since work has been so stressful, I often indulge in a beer after work (the hubs likes one too so it's just easy to sip one together). This habit just isn't necessary. I'm not saying I'll never have a beer again, but do I need one 5 times a week? Absolutely not!

5. Get Educated - I've learned a lot from this site and a few others, but I would like to keep learning more about whole foods, how to eat clean and prepare healthy meals, and the health benefits of it all.

Next on the agenda: exercise. This is more of a schedule issue than anything. I'm going to work on the eating thing for a few weeks before I dive in to a regular exercise routine, because I don't want to bite off more than I can chew at one time. It's all about baby steps!

So there you have it! I hope by putting this out there for the world to see there will be at least some sort of accountability : ) After thinking about it for so long, I feel like I need to finally take the plunge. And it's been six months since the big changes in my life, so even though my life is busier, those six months gave me time to adjust and now take on something new. If you're interested, I'll keep you posted. I have to admit this is certainly not my passion the way decorating is, so this will not turn into a foodie blog, promise. But I'll give updates as I hit milestones along the way.

Now, wish me luck...I'm gonna need it : )

{live beautifully}

PS - Pictures from here

Monday, September 17, 2012

Quick Halloween Touches

Is it too early to decorate for Halloween? I hope not because I already have! My "fall decor" box was still out from decorating the living room, so instead of making a trip to store it and then a trip to get it back out for Halloween in a few weeks, I just quickly put out my orange and black things to get the job done. This was super quick decorating and super quick photos, so nothing fancy or terribly inspired. Just some whimsical, festive touches in the kitchen to ring in Halloween...a little early : )

Black and orange stripey straws are from TJ Maxx

Again, I'm waiting for natural pumpkins to be available, but the faux ones will do for now!

The display above our fridge...I just plopped my little halloween man on top of the number bucket and called it good!

Thanks for stopping by!

{live beautifully}

Linking to the Easy Fall Decor Party at Thrifty Decor Chick and the Impromptu Fall Party at Jennifer Rizzo's

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Dream Furniture

Well...I did it...I spent more money than I ever have in my life and bought real, authentic, new furniture. Not from a thrift store, antique mall, flea market or Craigslist. Yes, I have bought a new kitchen table, coffee table and bed in my short adulthood, so technically this is my fourth "real" furniture purchase...but it's certainly the biggest!

I bought a pair of these beige Sterling Club Chairs off One King's Lane. They were $400 each. They look just like the ones I love from Ballard, which are around $1,500 each. Not linen, but I'll take the $2,200 cost savings over real linen any day!

I was inspired by Trina of A Country Farmhouse and Jennifer of The Old Painted Cottage, who each have similar-styled chairs (above).

Aren't they beautiful? I can't wait until they arrive! Our oversized, way-too-big-for-the-room double chair will go into storage, and will be replaced by these lovely ladies. Much more my style, right??

What was your first "adult" furniture purchase? Do tell!

{live beautifully}

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Registry Favorites: Our Dishes

I've been wanting to do a series on how we like certain products we registered for, since we've now been married and lived with those products for more than a year. I hope this is helpful to anyone registering for their wedding, or anyone looking for great items for their home.

I thought I'd start off with what's been one our favorite purchases/gifts - our dishes. I blogged about them when I registered, but now that we've lived with them, I can say they have more than lived up to my expectations. They are the Antique White Dinnerware by Mikasa (they are listed incorrectly in my 2010 post about them, this is the correct set).

I was not originally planning to register for dishes. I had some I liked, and had searched and searched and couldn't find any to replace them with that seemed any better. But, my all-time favorite blog is The Grower's Daughter and she would always post the most beautiful pictures of baked goods on her dishes. They were just what I had in my head and so I sent her an email to ask where she got them. Maria was kind enough to tell me the company and pattern, and I immediately registered for the entire line. I am so glad I did!

{close up of the back in case you would like to purchase them}

We didn't want fine china, but also didn't want completely plain everyday dishes. These are the perfect compromise because they are everyday china - the weight and delicacy of china with the durability of daily dishes. They are a perfect solution in my opinion. They're delicate and lovely enough to be set on a formal table for special occasions, but not so delicate we can't eat on them every day, throw them in the dishwasher, or use them in the microwave  - and we do all that and more! They hold up beautifully and lend an elegant air to every dinner table (even taco night!).

The tea cups are one of my favorite parts : )

I love the scalloped detail on them - it's a little feminine without being too sweet and flowery. My husband isn't embarrassed to eat off them : )

I couldn't help but share a few images of these gorgeous flowers I picked up at the market - their purple hue looks lovely in aqua mason jars. You've always got to have flowers for a photo shoot, right?

I also registered for these floral napkins and think they are so pretty for any occasion. 

There are several pieces to the Antique White collection. I have the dishes (which come with the tea cups/saucers and soup bowls), cream/sugar set, butter dish, one platter and a soup tureen. Each piece is perfectly lovely on its own and I display them all around the house when we're not using them. The cream and sugar is at my coffee station, the tureen resides on our shelves, and the platter on our kitchen shelves.

Here they are in our dishes cupboard. The cafe au lait bowls are from Williams-Sonoma. I like to perch the salad dishes on a cake stand just for height and interest.

Another registry favorite, our silverware by Oneida. I chose a classic beaded pattern which is simple and timeless - my favorite combination!

If you are registering or simply looking for new white dishes, I can't recommend the Antique White collection enough. The pattern can look elegant or simplistic, dressy or casual, feminine or functional depending on how you use it, which is perfect for how we live. The dishes are also super durable - we have dropped them, washed them, zapped them, banged them together, etc. and they are still in perfect condition. I'm totally pleased with the choice and think you would be too!

Do you have a favorite set of dishes? Why do you love them so much? Please share!

{live beautifully}

Monday, September 10, 2012

An Instagram Day

Good morning friends! How was your weekend? Did you get to do anything fun? I have to say, our Saturday was pretty laid back and fun around here. I ended up documenting the whole day on Instagram, not so much on purpose but just because I was enjoying everything and drinking in the beauty all day long. {If you're on Instagram, you can follow me at username courtneymbrowning}

I got to sleep til noon...yes, noon. I know everyone with kids hates me right now : ) But I'm enjoying those days while I have them. Matt watched football and did laundry while I sipped coffee, cruised pinterest, cleaned and organized, and got out a few Halloween decorations. We had a fun afternoon together just hanging out, cleaning up the house and being silly together. Those are my favorite!

I had been dying to pick up some pumpkins, and had been waiting very impatiently for them to arrive at  our supermarket. A friend let me know they were finally available and you better believe I was off to the store in a hurry. These will go to the shop, and I have some fun things up my sleeve for the flat funny ones!

When I got home from the store, the October issue of Country Living was waiting for me! It seems kinda early, but I'll sure take it! I love the day Country Living arrives in the mail!

Next, I hung a new mirror I got from One King's Lane in our hallway. OKL is one of my favorite resources right now for lovely things at a great price.

Sometimes I love to just be at home and enjoy my house. It doesn't happen that often, especially during the day time, so I try to soak it all in and enjoy the pretty when it does.

We had been invited to a fundraiser for our local zoo by some friends, so I got to wear my first "fall outfit" since the evening was supposed to be a little cooler. Jeans, a mint tea with mustard rosette necklace, and my favorite grey jacket. (In case you are wondering, this pic is in our TV room...which will never ever appear on the blog, if you know what I mean...not too pretty : )

A close up of the necklace I got from my friend/fellow Cottage gal Mindy of Marigold Road.

The fundraiser was so much fun! It's an outdoor even at the zoo with tons and tons of local restaurants and live music. All the food and drinks are free, so you get to eat lots of delicious things, like these pretty aqua cake pops. They were my fave!

Ok so I know this is not the kind of thing I post on the blog but this pic just cracks me up! It is Matt and I to a tee...and totally priceless! : )

Loved this wall of old numbers at the zoo.

There was lots of hand holding as we enjoyed the lovely fall weather : )

With some of our good friends, Kat and Cameron. We had so much fun! It was a great way to end a beautiful fall Saturday!

How about you guys? What was your weekend like? I'd love to hear!

{live beautifully}

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Autumn's Arrival

Today's high was 107...not exactly fall weather. But that didn't stop me from turning our living room into a cozy autumn haven! After my visit to Nell Hill's, I couldn't help but get out all things autumn and prepare for the season ahead.

I apologize there are a lot of pictures in this post...I couldn't help myself : )

I knew I wanted to keep things neutral, but still warm up the feeling of the living room with natural and rustic touches.

This huge old window is one of the things I found at Sparks last weekend. It was only $15! It's about 4 feet tall and has 8 panes with chippy white paint...that kind of thing usually goes for $50+ so I was thrilled with that find. Plus it helps balance out the big blank wall that goes across the living room.

I know you are all probably so tired of looking at my living room shelves : ) I did change the decor almost completely though. I had been wanting two urns for either side of the mantel forever, and found these at Nell Hill's. They are perfect! The pumpkins are from there also, and I simply nestled them in spanish and green moss.

I have to say I am so proud of these mercury glass pumpkins. I actually found them at TJ Maxx! My MIL and I went there the night before we went to Nell Hill's, and I found the two larger ones for $9.99 a piece. I knew Pottery Barn was selling similar ones for $30, so I was thrilled. But then when we went to Nell Hill's, she had these exact mercury glass pumpkins everywhere. They were $11 and $14, so I saved a whopping $5 at TJ Maxx : ) I did buy the smaller pumpkin at Nell's so I would have a trio.

To soften the mercury glass and white porcelain, I used grapevine garland, moss and moss balls as filler. I think it adds a natural touch and gives everything depth.

I am loving this little corner. I was inspired by Pottery Barn's fall catalogue and wanted to get a similar look. I got the floral stems at Michael's. I think they cost me $15 or less, and I already had everything else you see here.

Acorn vase filler from Target in an ironstone sugar bowl. I love mixing old and new!

The wheat sheath is from last year (Dillon's) and the corbel is another Sparks find, though it's going to the shop.

I was so thrilled to find this neutral fall vase filler at TJ Maxx. I love warm colors during the fall, but sometimes I don't want tons of bright orange everywhere. This mix had the perfect shades of creams, peaches and browns to use in my neutral home.

I love oval frames, but they are often difficult to find. This one came guessed it...TJ Maxx, and I love its starburst shape. I didn't have a photo that would fit in it, so for now I simply framed a vintage French book page.

I attempted to bring in a lot of natural elements this year, though I would still like to pick up some pine cones and real pumpkins. Faux pumpkins and lots of moss fill in the gap for now.

I found these terra-cotta pumpkins at Tuesday Morning for 22 cents two springs ago. I wish I had tons of them...I absolutely love their texture and coloring!

Fall is the perfect time to use rustic elements, like these rusty flower frogs. Of course, you can always mix rustic and elegant, as I did with the mercury glass bottle here.

For my wire basket, I traded in lavender stems from summer for fall wheat. I love the texture it adds.

Just a few detail shots...

Happy fall everyone! I hope to be back soon with a few whimsical Halloween touches in the kitchen. Have a great week!

{live beautifully}

I'm linking to Feathered Nest Friday at French Country Cottage and Fabulously Creative Friday at Jennifer Rizzo's and the Fall Mantel Party at Centsational Girl and the Impromptu Fall Party at Jennifer Rizzo's