My Year By Design

The journey to living by design.

Kind of Internet Famous…again?

The first time I was flattered. Now I’m gob-smacked. I got my second mention on the Art Assignment. There at 5:38 is the photo of my best friend Nick. He looks embarrassed. He was embarrassed. Neither Nick nor I like having our photo taken.

He agreed to this photo because he loves me. Also probably because I was just posting it to my blog and not that many people were going to see it. Whoops, it might be a few more now that it’s been featured in a video. He wasn’t too…impressed when I showed him the video. I believe he rolled his eyes and walked away but I knew he was just teasing me. I think he loves being my best friend as much as I love being his.

The Most Amazing Chocolate Truffle Cake Ever!


I am not exaggerating. It’s melt-in-your-mouth delicious and so chocolatey. I am forever grateful to Jellibean Journals for this treat. This dessert is not by design but it is so rich, you can get away with having a tiny piece.



  • 1 pkg (6 oz.) BAKER’S Bittersweet Chocolate (I used a mix of dark and semisweet chocolate because that’s what I had in the house.)
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • pinch salt


Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 9″ round cake pan or springform. If using a springform, sit it on top of a small baking sheet to bake to ensure no messes in the bottom of your oven should the pan leak.

Over low heat, melt chocolate and butter in a saucepan, stirring frequently. Set aside to cool.

Beat eggs and sugar in a large bowl until thickened. This took forever by hand with a whisk. Stir in chocolate mixture.

Gently whisk in flour and salt.

Pour into prepared baking pan and bake 30 minutes or until center is set.


Make sure you grease and flour your pan well. I used a spring form pan to make it easier to remove the cake.


Once melted, your chocolate and butter will be silky and shiny.


The cake going into the over.


The cake after it’s cooled and dusted with powdered sugar.


I decided to serve it with the Jasmine Peach Blossom tea I got at Murchies while on my honeymoon.


I set up some slices with the tea and a board game for Nick and I.


It was perfect served with real whipped cream. Was it good?


I think my empty plate says it all.

Progress, Not Perfection

The most common question people ask me since I started this blog is, “How do you eat by design every day?” Here’s the dirty secret: I don’t. In fact, no one does. The point of Eat by Design has never been to be one hundred percent compliant every single day. That’s not realistic. Doctors Jamie and Joel recommend eating by design at least 80% of the time. More is better but not mandatory.

I find that if I deny myself one type of food, (e.g. carbs, sugar, etc.) when I crave it I have two options; I can allow yourself a small amount and then return to eating by design, or I can keep denying myself until I crack and binge on the forbidden foodstuff. Secret option number three is not to have the food at all, which I often do, but I’m talking about overwhelming cravings.

When I really want a cookie, I have a cookie. Better one cookie now than a handful later.

Another good tip is to measure treats like chips or candies into a small dish rather than eating from the bag. That make portion control much easier.

I do try to Eat by Design but right now I am closer to 80% than I am to 100%. It’s something we can all work on and I find making small, gradual changes is easier to stick to long-term. Look at the progress you can make rather than striving for perfection.

Art Assignment 26 Customize It


Take a look at my list of traits below and see if you can guess what item I’ll be customizing:

Looks square, rectangular, wordy, typefaced, white, cream,  yellowed, black, grey, shiny, matte, distinctive, impressive.

Sounds rustling, thudding, deeply silent.

Feels smooth, soft, hard, comforting.

Smells sweet, musty, unidentifiably perfect.

Tastes papery, delicate, aged.

Ok, so if you saw my post on Art Assignment 25, you can probably guess I am going to customize a book.Last time I justified my destroying/transforming an astronomy book that was out of date. However, this time I decided to choose a new book. Like many book nerds, I was raised to view bound texts as sacred objects. Even the thought of folding a page or *shudder* cracking the spine of a book seems unsettling to me. So when I decided to customize a book, I knew I would struggle a bit. In trying to change the essential nature of this book, I decided to introduce two things that are known destroyers of libraries; water and fire. As dramatic as that sounds, I actually used my bathroom sink and then my oven to accomplish my task. I have included some photos of my process below.

When I first put the hardbound book into the sink I expected it to sink, (pun intended,) but it floated like a little raft. I had to push it under the water and stood amazed at all the bubbles of air that poured from between the pages. I would have photographed that part but I had to use both hands to hold onto the edges of the book. Books do not take kindly to getting wet!

Once my book was sufficiently soggy, I put it on a towel and began to sculpt. I chose the word ‘sculpt’ here because the pages were like thick stacks of papier-mache. I could twist, turn and fold them as much as I liked but I did have to be careful not to rip them as they were very delicate.

I left the sculpted book on its towel for a few hours and although I was glad to see it holding its shape, it wasn’t really drying out. It was time to bake my sculpture in the oven. I set my over to 190 and put the towel and the book onto a cookie tray. I baked the sculpture in one hour increments, giving it some time to cool in between. This took me the better part of a lazy Sunday, (probably about six hours total.) I was trying to get the edges of the paper to look a bit singed without setting my house on fire. I also wanted the book to be dry enough that it wouldn’t mold or rot. I think I accomplished both and I managed to make my whole house smell like warm paper; it’s a strangely comforting smell.

I really took Sarah’s critiques to heart and tried to play with the lighting in my photographs of the final product. Between the late afternoon sun in our back bedroom and a lamp, I was able to create a bit of an unusual glowing quality to my transformed object.

I love the fragments of text left behind by the folds in the paper. Here are a few of my favourites:

You haven’t

Not yet

I’m Levi



I laugh


The fox

Pandora hits

there, the

miss out on

I hear.


When the wounds have come

on his palm to make sure.


Pandora crashes

dark, I spot



The horizon

pinks. It’s so beautiful

of happiness after

only ten days.

Art Assignment 25 Artistic Alchemy

Keep your eye on Foundations of Astronomy.

Keep your eye on Foundations of Astronomy.



Interior 1.

Interior 1.

Interior 2.

Interior 2.

Interior 3.

Interior 3.



At first I was having some real difficulty ‘destroying’ (transforming) a book. I justified it in the end because this book was published in 1978 and a lot of the information in it will be obsolete. Still, I felt a little guilty as I carved stars in this book. However, as I worked I saw the potential for art.

The beauty in the process.

The beauty in the process.

I’m really pleased with my finished project. I really enjoy the fact that I can hide this art piece on my bookshelf. I love the idea of people discovering the art inside this book when they expected something usual. Art can so easily confound expectations.

PS – I learned how to hollow out a book here.

Good Grief, More Positive Tweets!

Here are a few more #DailyJoy tweets to brighten up your day.

Feel free to tweet to #DailyJoy. I’ll be sure to retweet you.

Art Assignment 24 Assembly Line

Can I turn art into a competition? Let’s find out. I decided to give four of my closest friends pattern blocks and this challenge:

The piece of art to replicate.

The piece of art to replicate.

The template.

The template.

The prize.

The prize.

As my friends tried to replicate my art using only the template I then gave them the clues below:

We had some close calls.

We had some close calls.

Julie was the first to master the duplication.

Julie was the first to master the duplication.

Julie enjoying her prize.

Julie enjoying her prize.

Then we all made our own art pieces.



Spaceship 2.

Spaceship 2.



The fox or cat or bee.

The fox or cat or bee.

The sun.

The sun.



Pattern in partial shadow.

Pattern in partial shadow.

The hungry caterpillar.

The hungry caterpillar.

Spring Clean Up Round Up

So this will be my final post about my Spring Clean Up for now. I’m still going to work on my healthy habits but I’m going to round-up my posts on this subject so I can focus on other things I’m doing. So here’s how I did overall:

No food after 7pm – Accomplished.

No sweets except on exception days – Accomplished.

Only water and herbal tea to drink – Accomplished.

No grains – Almost there. I have drastically cut down and am going to keep working towards this goal.

I feel healthier. I’ve lost about 1 1/2 lbs, (that doesn’t seem like a lot over six weeks but I find true, lasting weight loss is best accomplished through slow changes in habit.) I feel successful and I think that’s what matters most.

Just so that you don’t feel I’ve left you hanging, I’m going to include some of the other goals I’ve set for myself over the next few months:

  1. Stop eating when I’m 80% full and see if I’s actually still hungry at that point.
  2. Stop eating while ding other activities like reading or watching TV.
  3. Moving from one or two CrossFit classes a week to 3-4.
  4. Ride my bike to and from CrossFit all summer (July and August.)
  5. Set two more goals to work on in July and August.


Art Assignment 23: Become Someone Else

I'm in my car at school but I feel like I've forgotten something...

I’m in my car at school but I feel like I’ve forgotten something…

There it is.

There it is.

This was a pretty big hit with the staff and students. A lot of people said, “Nice ears.” A few students told me I was “on point,” which means stylish, (I had to ask another teacher to decode that one for me). The cutest was when one of the other teachers asked me to be a guinea pig for something he was showing the students. One girl pipped up, “Don’t you mean guinea bunny?”

Be kind; these are about the fifth and sixth selfies I’ve taken…ever. Hoppy Easter! #theartassignment

Spring Cleaning Week 5

So this week I challenged myself to give up grains except in small amounts on exception days. As I explained in my review of the book Wheat Belly, I don’t believe grains cause all or even most ailments. However, I know that when I consume large quantities of grain products, I gain weight and feel more sluggish. I have also wondered if grains exacerbate my depression. I have head anecdotal evidence that wheat especially worsens depression, although I haven’t read a medical report that provides clinical evidence of this effect.

Before I got married, I reduced my consumption of grains, especially wheat, and found I felt a lot better. I slimmed down but more importantly, I had more energy. After the wedding, parties and honeymooning led to more rich meals complete with bread, pasta and treats like cake for dessert. Over time I noticed some weight gain, (about 5 lbs,) and a downward turn in my overall mood. These seemed like excellent reasons to remove most of the grains from my diet.

Now, because I struggled so much to reduce my sugar intake, I knew giving up my beloved bread would be a challenge so I wasn’t surprised when I didn’t succeed this week. I ate fewer grains but still more than two servings. I had a lot of stress this week and I had several weather triggered migraines. For those of you who don’t know, migraines can be caused by changes in barometric pressure. One of the most effective, non-medicinal ways to treat a weather migraine is to eat complex, whole grains because the digestive system will draw blood out of the throbbing head to help with the difficult task of breaking down grains in the stomach.

Excuses aside, next week grains and I are breaking up for good. I may still see them at parties and social events but I’ll just smile and keep my distance.

Goodbye bread. I like you a lot but you make me feel badly.

Cereal, you’ve always been there on the breakfast table for me but I need some space.

Pasta, it’s not me, it’s you.



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