Rental Kitchen Makeover (Under $330!)

I’ve eagerly devoured a steady diet of HGTV since early high school. And if I’ve learned anything from Sarah Richardson, Jonathan Scott, or Joanna Gaines over the years, it’s that the most budget friendly way to achieve the look you’re after is to roll up your sleeves and do it yourself.

Living in an expensive metropolitan area certainly puts a damper on home ownership prospects, but with a little bit of elbow grease, and a lot of creativity, renters can also make a space their own. In fact, this is even true in a room with seemingly little opportunity for personalization, such as the kitchen.

With a dishwasher, garbage disposal, natural light, and generous square footage, the kitchen in our cozy attic apartment is fabulously functional. But widespread visible clutter and slightly disjointed color scheme (a purple wall, a yellow wall, and a red door) had me dreaming of a more tidy, Nancy Myers inspired aesthetic.

The primary source of clutter was the lack of built in storage, which had been addressed by previous tenants with a mismatched array of bookcases overflowing with mugs, mixing bowls, and foodstuffs. The second ‘before’ photo does not fully illustrate the direness of the situation, as I didn’t think to take before photos until I had already put two of the white cabinets in.

With my landlord’s blessing, and roommates who are willing to humor my creative whims, I set out for a miniature home improvement project over the long weekend of Columbus Day. A fresh coat of paint and a few new accents can make a world of difference, but the best part is that the entire makeover cost less than most dining room tables.

If you think that all budget-conscious renters are stuck living in drab apartments, I’ve got a paint stained t-shirt and two happy roommates that beg to differ.

beforeafter1

After:

Rental Kitchen Makeover

beforeafter2

After:

Rental Kitchen Makeover

rental kitchen makeover

Rental Kitchen Makeover

Rental Kitchen Makeover

beforeafter3

After:

rental kitchen makeover: chalkboard door

Cost Breakdown:

  • Target Cabinets (3 @ $35 ea.) — $105
  • Target Shelves (3 @ $25 ea.) — $75
  • Brass Hardware for Cabinets ( 6 @ $5.79 ea. + shipping) — $42
  • 1 gallon of blue paint — $33
  • 1 quart of chalkboard paint — $17
  • Supplies (rollers, brushes, tray, drop cloth, spackle, primer, etc.) — $55
  • GRAND TOTAL: $327

Sources:

– Kelly

Welcome to Our Garden

Dinner on a rooftop garden, Brookline, MA

^^ Dinner in the garden

While I’m perfectly content lugging my grocery basket up and down the tiny aisles of my minuscule but much loved Whole Foods Market, there is something incredibly rewarding about growing your own food.

As a lover of local, organic foods and CSAs, having a small vegetable garden has been on my bucket list for years. I first acted on this agricultural impulse several years ago, when I enrolled in the Citizen Gardener Certification course from the Sustainable Food Center in Austin. The program consisted of two classroom & field lessons and required 10 hours of volunteer work in community gardens. At the end of the summer, the training then culminated in a beautiful potluck feast at the Barr Mansion in Austin, where students brought dishes created with their homegrown produce.

Despite all of the education and volunteer work, I completely wimped out on the actual act of starting a garden, still too daunted to put these lessons into practice. At the potluck, I sheepishly put my farmers market vegetable tartine on the table (at least it was homemade!), and quickly deflected all questions about my summer in the dirt. So much for that!

In the years since, I’ve been much more enthusiastic about buying plants, and have subsequently let several herb starts and an embarrassing number of succulents perish on my watch. This year, however, marked a turning point in my gardening adventures, as our cozy Brookline abode came complete with a spacious rooftop patio, which I am determined not to take for granted. Plus, our newest roommate is from the Pacific Northwest, and is using all of her quirky Portlandia knowledge to spearhead this project. (Admittedly, I am mostly only contributing dirt and curiosity.)

Garden1

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Cultivating the seedlings into strong plants was a challenge, but apparently, that was only half the battle. Our third floor elevation protects us from most predators, but we’ve dealt with a few heartbreaking run-ins with a rather malicious squirrel, as well as an infestation of aphids.

After several months of care, we are finally starting to see some veggies springing up. We started peas, carrots, green beans, zucchinis, basil, Thai basil, Chinese chives, sunflowers, and cucumbers from seed—a particularly rewarding endeavor. We also have tomatoes, strawberries, oregano, mint, rosemary, and sage, which we grew from starts.

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If you’re looking to start your own garden, here are some tools we found particularly helpful…

Starting an Outdoor Container Garden in Boston

  1. Smart Pot // Amazon ( Assorted sizes, $8.72 for 5 gallon)
  2. BirdBlock Netting // Amazon ($8.35 for 7 ft x 20 ft)
  3. Neptune Harvest Organic Fertilizer // Amazon ($12.74 for 18 oz)
  4. Foxfarm Potting Soil // Amazon ($24.37 for 36.8 quarts)
  5. Seed Starter Pots // Amazon ($5.98 for 50 cells)

Are you growing anything this year?

– Kelly

World Hunger: 10 Myths

Frances Moore Lappe and Kelly Toups with World Hunger 10 Myths

World hunger is not a traditional area of study for dietitians, but one thing I love about dietetics is that it has allowed me to explore food and nutrition issues from so many different perspectives. Following a passion for food and nutrition policy, I landed at the Small Planet Institute in 2013 working as a research fellow on Frances Moore Lappé’s newest book, World Hunger: Ten Myths.

For those of you not familiar with Frances Moore Lappé, she is often credited with being one of the early pioneers of the food movement. Diet for a Small Planet, her 1971 classic that has sold over 3 million copies, was among the first works that helped people make the connection between the food we eat and the health of our planet.

Today her latest book, World Hunger: Ten Myths, is finally being released! I am so grateful to have been a part of this project, even if only for a year. Anyone interested in hunger and food insecurity, food justice, food and nutrition policy, sustainable agriculture, GMOs, and more should definitely pick up a copy. You can order it on Amazon here.

World Hunger 10 Myths Cover

– Kelly

Current Obsessions

Long time, no see, my friends! As summer craziness flickers out and we settle into fall routines, here are some of the things that I can’t get enough of lately.

Tomato Ricotta Toast

Tomato & Ricotta Toast

Toast is definitely becoming a “thing” now, but mashed avocado aside, this seasonal combination is definitely my favorite. Forget the cold, flavorless orbs you find on salad bars year round. Cherry tomatoes fresh from the garden are a food like no other, and their puckering sweet flavor promptly puts an end to the fruit vs. vegetable debate that haunts this ubiquitous crop. The best way to enjoy these summer gems is to pile them on crusty whole grain toast that’s been slathered with part skim ricotta, lightly drizzled with olive oil, then topped with a handful of fresh basil and a tiny sprinkle of salt and dried oregano.

Fastachi Mixed Nut Butter

Fastachi Mixed Nut Butter // $7.99- $15.99

Different nuts and seeds each have a unique nutrient profile, which is why it’s important to have a variety of these superfoods in your diet. This is also why I get paralyzed in the nut butter aisle at Whole Foods every couple of weeks. Thankfully, I came across this mixed nut butter, which boasts an impressive lineup of roasted nuts (hazelnuts, pecans, almonds, pistachios, peanuts, cashews, and walnuts), without the unnecessary added oils or sugars. All of the women that sit near me at work keep a stash of it, as it’s conveniently sold at the Copley Farmers Market (Tuesdays and Fridays) and at their charming Beacon Hill storefront. For those outside of Boston, you can also order online, or try making your own.

Biking in Back Bay, Boston

Biking to Work 

Yes, I wear a helmet; yes, there are bike lanes (most of the way); and yes, it can be scary. But it’s also really, really fun, not to mention the fastest way to get around the city. I got my bike in July, but it wasn’t until I moved to Brookline this September that I really started getting brave about riding on Boston roads. Now it’s my primary mode of transportation to and from work, and increasingly for other trips as well. If the FitBit registered pedaling, we’d be golden.

Produce Candles

Produce Candles // $20

Pretty much anything produce themed is an instant hit with me, and these charming candles are no exception. I first spotted them while browsing Milly & Grace in Nantucket, but was delighted to find them at my happy place (Brookline Booksmith) at a slightly cheaper price. The rhubarb scent smells phenomenal, although I’m also smitten with the earthier ones like kale (how could I not?!) and mint.

What’s on your radar lately?

– Kelly

Bicycle Season

Bike Season

After nearly a year of romanticizing leisurely bike rides to the farmers market and around the Esplanade, I finally took the plunge and purchased a bicycle. Reality set in quickly, as it’s a bit of a struggle to shove the bike into our small, creaky elevator, and I’m still too nervous to ride on city streets alone. Nonetheless, I’m over the moon about my purchase!

So far I’ve only biked to Tatte Bakery in Beacon Hill, and done part of the Esplanade and the Battle Road Trail in Lexington, but I have lots of bike trips in the works (including Burlington, VT and the Cape Cod Rail Trail).

Cute Bicycles

^^Luckily, I was able to snag both the bike and the basket on sale

When deciding on a cruiser, I scanned the web a lot (including Craigslist) and ended up narrowing my search down to the four bikes below (hand brakes were mandatory), all around the $150 price range. (Keep an eye on the price — they were nearly all on sale when I was looking about a month ago.) I’ve also included a roundup of cute bike accessories, including helmets and baskets.

These bikes aren’t necessarily intended to power you through iron man races, but they do encourage just the sort of enjoyable daily activity that is so closely linked with health and longevity.

Best Bikes and Bike Accessories

1. Schwinn Admiral Hybrid Bike (Wal-Mart, $159) – this is mine!

2. Front Handlebar Wicker Bike Basket (Amazon, $27.95) – this is mine!

3. Nutcase Mini Dot Helmet (Amazon, $69.99)

4. Huffy Fresno Cruiser Bike (Target, $139.99)

5. Huffy Sportsman Cruiser Bike (Kohl’s, $179.99)

6. Schwinn Pattern helmet (Target, $26.99)

7. House of Talents Oblong Bike Basket (Amazon, $49.94)

8. Schwinn Perla Cruiser Bike (Amazon, $177.75, also seen at Academy, Kohl’s and Wal-Mart)

Any favorite bike routes in New England? Do tell!

–  Kelly

Weekend Web Roundup

It’s been awhile since my last web roundup, so today I’m sharing a few fun features that recently caught my eye. What sites have you been bookmarking lately?

Mediterranean Diet Manifesto

Mediterranean Diet Manifesto // I love this punchy infographic from registered dietitian Elena Paravantes. For those of you that have trouble picturing what a “real food” or “whole foods” diet looks like, print this graphic out and stick it to the refrigerator or pantry door. A few of my favorite snippets of advice are “Talk During Meals,” “Eat Beans at Least Twice a Week,” and “Eat Fruits and Vegetables that are in Season.”

Obesity & Food Policy Infographic

How Food Policy Can Help Curb Obesity // My concentration in grad school was Food Policy, so I love nerding out over these sorts of public health analyses. This graphic from The Lancet is a great jumping off point to brainstorm solutions for obesity prevention and public health nutrition.

Menu that Encourages Healthy Choices

Restaurant Menu Layout that Encourages Healthy Choices // Speaking of public health… In this article for The Atlantic, Cornell researcher Dr. Brian Wansink shares strategies for restaurants to use that subconsciously encourage diners to choose healthier options, by simply tweaking the menu design. If you enjoy these types of health hacks, you’ll love Wansink’s books, Slim by Design, and Mindless Eating. (I wrote a bit about Slim by Design here.)

Wright Kitchen, by photographer Brittany Wright

Food Gradients // Seattle photographer Brittany Wright became an Instagram sensation after posting captivating pictures of food neatly arranged by color. Her prints are available in limited edition runs on her website, so if you see one you like, snatch it up quickly! For a regular dose of Brittany’s shamelessly OCD food styling, be sure to follow her on Instagram (@wrightkitchen).

50 States of Food from Fooddiggity

Foodnited States of America // Ending on a lighter note, I just had to share this delightful collection of punny food art from the folks at Foodiggity. They creating each of the 50 states as visual food puns, and are posting the project on Instagram (@foodiggity) using the hashtag #foodnitedstates. Follow along with the project on Instagram (they have about 40 states so far), or read more about the project on Foodiggity and Yahoo.

– Kelly

Desktop Wallpapers to Inspire Healthy Living

Pike Place Market

^^ This photo that I took at Pike Place Market in 2013 has been my long-time desktop background

The home should be a sanctuary that inspires healthy living, and screens (computer + phone) are no exception to that. Other than my own personal collection of farmers market photos (I know, I am such a cliche), there are two sites that I like to browse for free desktop wallpaper backgrounds: Design*Sponge and Nutrition Stripped. Design*Sponge is one of my favorite design and lifestyle sites, which features home tours, city guides, entrepreneurship stories, and the occasional downloadable wallpaper. Nutrition Stripped is a nutrition blog, run by Nashville-based dietitian McKel Hill. She introduces a new downloadable wallpaper on the First Friday of every month for a “Style Your Screen” series. Here are some of my favorite designs from these two sites:

Alexia Toussaint for DesignSponge - free desktop background

Alea Toussaint for Design*Sponge // Available for both desktop and cell phone backgrounds. Click here to download

Julie Lee for Design Sponge

Julie Lee for Design*Sponge // This is my current desktop background at work. Click desired size to download: 1280 x 800, 1440 x 900, 1680 x 1050, 1920 x 1200, 2560 x 1440, iPhone option A, iPhone option B

Eat Healthy Designs for Nutrition Stripped

Eat Healthy Designs for Nutrition Stripped // Click here to download.

Eat Healthy Designs for Nutrition Stripped

Eat Healthy Designs for Nutrition Stripped // Reminds me of my favorite shirtClick here to download.

DBuerli for Nutrition Stripped

DBuerli for Nutrition Stripped // Click here to download.

DBuerli for Nutrition Stripped

DBuerli for Nutrition Stripped // Click here to download.

Maria Schoettler for Design Sponge

Maria Schoettler for Design*Sponge // Click desired size to download: 1600 x 1200, 1920 x 1200iPhoneAndroid

Maria Schoettler for Design Sponge

Maria Schoettler for Design*Sponge // Click desired size to download: 1600 x 1200, 1920 x 1200iPhone, Android

Nutrition Stripped style your screen

Nutrition Stripped // A great reminder to give your body what it needs! Click here to download.

Helen Dealtry for Design Sponge

Helen Dealtry for Design*Sponge // Not directly healthy living related, but a fun and colorful way to be reminded of nature! Click desired size to download: 1024 x 768, 1600 x 1200, 1920 x 1200cell phone

What’s on your desktop right now?

– Kelly

Fashion Friday: Commuter Shoes

I still consider myself a fair weather exerciser, so the main component of my active lifestyle is walking around the city (including to and from work). Unfortunately, although many of my dress shoes are quite comfortable, they just can’t take five miles a day on the Boston sidewalks. Thus, I’ve finally resorted to wearing commuter shoes. This puts less wear and tear on my fancy footwear. Plus, I’m motivated to get more steps in, since tennies are so darn walkable!

Commuter Shoes

L to R: Caradona, Memorandum, Hello Fashion, Atlantic-Pacific (for more sneaker styling, see here)

New Balance for J CrewLuckily, sneakers don’t have to scream goofy American tourist. In fact, when done right (see photos above) they can actually look quite chic. My trusty mint green Keds are filthy beyond repair (note to self: Scotchguard the next pair), so I splurged this red pair of New Balance kicks from J. Crew to achieve that urban-chic/woman-on-the-go look captured in the photos above.

If you’re in the market for new commuter shoes, check out a dozen of my favorites below. They’re perfect for springtime strolls!

Best Commuter Shoes

1. Keds (sale $24.95)

2. Bergdorf Goodman ($195)

3. Anthropologie (sale $69.95)

4. Finish Line ($69.98)

5. Keds (sale $34.95)

6. Anthropologie ($109.95)

7. Keds (sale $24.95)

8. Bergdorf Goodman ($195)

9. Keds ($50)

10. Keds ($50)

11. Zappos ($50)

12. Finish Line ($79.99)

Which pair is your favorite?

– Kelly

P.S. I love my Toms, but they’re just not a practical option for walking around the city, as I tend to bust through the heel after less than ten wears.

Apps I Love: Map My Run

Best Running App - Map My Run

The long awaited signs of spring (blossoming magnolia trees in Back Bay, sailboats on the Charles, pleasantly cool temps) ignite an uncharacteristic urge to lace up my Nikes and soak up the sunshine on a scenic jog. With the Boston marathon in town this week (yesterday, actually!), running seems to be contagious throughout the city, inspiring me to kick up my mileage and pace. With these goals in mind, I’ve been especially happy with a new app I just downloaded: Map My Run (the #1 running app).

Simply press start when you begin running (and stop when you finish), and the app will map your route, keep your time, and calculate your pace, along with a host of other features and statistics. It’s an excellent tool to monitor the progress of your workouts, especially if you’re training for a race. 

I’m fairly certain I’ve used a primitive, web-based edition of Map My Run a few years ago, slowly plotting my route on a computer to track my mileage, but this weekend was my first experience with the app, and I absolutely love it! In fact, I just might be inspired enough to make this running thing a habit. No promises, though 😉

– Kelly

The Best TED Talks on Food Systems, Nutrition, and Public Health

Surely a sign of progress, there are now an abundance of TED talks that explore food, nutrition, and public health. Below are my very favorites — a collection of videos that I consider informative, important, and incredibly fascinating! If you have a favorite TED talk that’s not listed here, send me a link in the comments below.

PART I: PUBLIC HEALTH AND HEALTHY FOOD ENVIRONMENTS

How an Obese Town Lost a Million Pounds (Mick Cornett)

I just got back from OKC this week after visiting a college roommate, so this Midwestern town is fresh on my mind. Regardless of whether or not you’ve ever been to the Sooner state, you’ll definitely be inspired by this talk from current mayor Mick Cornett. Equal parts entertaining and inspiring, this story highlights how city planners and public health professionals can play an important role in fighting the obesity epidemic, and shows how important a walkable environment is in promoting health.

Teach Every Child about Food (Jamie Oliver)

Oliver has gained a well-deserved reputation as a tireless advocate for childhood obesity prevention. In this talk, Oliver explains just how important improving nutrition is to our children, and just how serious of a problem the American food environment has become. Our kids deserve better than this, and Oliver explains why.

How We Can Eat Our Landscapes (Pam Warhurst)

In this delightful and motivational story, Warhurst describes how a grassroots volunteer gardening movement is creating a supportive framework for the local food economy. Her talk celebrates the small actions of the community, and highlights the importance of edible landscapes.

PART II: WHY ORGANICS ARE IMPORTANT

From Fabels to Labels (Urvashi Rangan)

Identifying healthy products at the supermarket can be a challenge, especially when packages tout a variety of health claims and nutrition buzzwords. In this talk, Rangan explains which food claims and labels are more credible than others, and also makes an excellent case for supporting organics.

Why is Organic Food so *#@! Expensive? (Ali Partovi)

If the previous talk didn’t convince you of the importance of organic farming systems, this one surely will. Tech giant Partovi dispels a lot of myths surrounding organic food and industrial agriculture. This talk is a must for anyone that thinks that organic farming is expensive and inefficient, and that industrial agriculture is necessary to feed the world.

PART III: SUSTAINABLE FOOD SYSTEMS AND FOOD POLICY

How I Fell in Love with a Fish (Dan Barber)

Sustainable food enthusiasts and seafood lovers alike will enjoy this engaging talk from Chef Dan Barber, which explores the sustainability of farmed fish. If you enjoyed Barber, be sure to check out his other TED talk about ethical foi gras. Or, if you’d like to learn more about sustainable seafood, be sure to check out this TED talk from chef and National Geographic Fellow Barton Seaver.

Turning the Farm Bill into a Food Bill (Ken Cook)

A new farm bill has passed since this 2011 talk first aired, but many of the points remain relevant. Cook explains how, despite the growing demand for responsibly produced food, government programs and legislation still favor industrial agriculture and the profits of a few food giants over family farms and public health.

Hungry for more? Check out the line-up from the TedxManhattan conferences (here are 2015 and 2014 to get you started) which are focused on “Changing the Way We Eat,” and are the sources of many of the videos above. The TED website also has a “What’s Wrong with What We Eat?” video playlist, a “Talks for Foodies” video playlist, and a “Plantastic!” video playlist. Additionally, Netflix offers a bundle of food related TED talks, in a collection called “Chew on This.”

– Kelly