Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Xmas How-to: Boozy Hot Chocolate

Yes, this is the simplest thing ever, but sometimes a person just needs explicit instructions.

Plus I wanted to take pictures of my new mug. :D I have a thing for glassware, apparently - probably because it can hold booze.

Here's how to make perfect alcoholic hot chocolate:

First, you need booze and hot chocolate. Hot water, spoons, and mugs also help. The best type of booze for hot chocolate is liqueurs; I prefer Baileys and Kahlua, but peppermint schnaps is pretty awesome, too.

The how to:
Pick an awesome mug. (This is an early Xmas present from The Hubs, in honor of my favorite Xmas special - "A Charlie Brown Christmas" for life, yo!)
 
As the water heats up, prep the booze and cocoa mix: Pour in the cocoa powder, and then pour in the booze. Since we're adults, we're going for a decent dose - I basically pour until it covers the powder (so about 1/4th of the mug). We pour the booze first so we don't take up too much room with that stupid hot water. Stir until it's a slurry of booze and cocoa mix.

Once the water's hot, pour and stir to get the chocolate as smooth as possible.




Stir, stir, stir until frothy. Best served with some delicious sweets cooked by your loved ones - my MIL and SIL made these bad boys. (Chocolate chip cookie made with Andes mints instead of regular chips, "slutty brownies" which is a layer of chocolate chip cookie dough followed by peanut-butter oreos with brownie batter on top [OMG SO DELICIOUS], and homemade fudge.)

Enjoy while watching the appropriate Christmas special that coordinates with your mug.
Happy Holidays if you celebrate, happy Tuesday if you don't!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

VACATION! Also known as "catch-up on life" time!

So as most people know, teachers get at least 2 weeks off for the winter holidays.

I should be excited. I should be relaxing for this entire break.

But instead I will only have "off" through Xmas day, and then I'm kicking in on all the catch-up work I have to do for work. That's right, a working vacation. (Although to be fair, I'm planning on working on all the stuff I LIKE to do as a teacher, which is mainly unit planning; the part I don't like, grading, is waiting until next week when school re-opens and I can go in to work to do it as well as prep for the first week back.)

Although I will be working through most of my break (giving myself the 4-day weekends that The Hubs have off as my own so I force myself to relax a LITTLE), I plan to use it to catch up on real life stuff as well, mostly of the housewife variety but some personal pursuits as well.

It's frustrating to me to feel so out of balance, which makes sense as I am a Libra. I get overwhelmed very easily by own inadequacies, and when I feel I'm lacking in an area it makes me beat myself up a LOT. The focus has been on work, and to be honest it felt like every other area of my life was suffering as a consequence, which just fed my own self-hatred. I'm trying to even things out a little, and the last few weeks as school was winding down to finals I was actually able to get stuff done, including Xmas-related stuff. Turns out the trick is to stop making work the only priority and make a little wiggle room for other stuff to climb up the ranks - go fig!

Anyway, the intent of this is not to complain, esp. because for the most part I still love my job and I'm so happy to be back in the classroom with a (mostly) awesome group of 9th and 10th graders.

The intent is to list all the things I want to get done over break! OMG so much to catch up on!
Here's my self-imposed Honey Do list:
  • Treat the bathtub drain and clean the tub - it is so gross, you guys, it's so embarrassing. The reason neither of us clean it with any frequency is because we both have bad backs and it's a sh**** chore, but I'm tired of looking at how gross it is. Plus I'm tired of the bathtub not draining fast again. (It's actually pretty easy - you heat up a cup of white vinegar and pour a 1/2 cup [I think] of baking soda down the drain, followed by the vinegar and it cleans it out fairly well - you can repeat it until it's draining as you like it. Man, baking soda is the best for cleaning stuff.)
  • Fix all the clothes that need sewing fixes. 
  • WASH ALL THE LAUNDRY!
  • Start working out. Yeah, I said it. I REALLY want to get healthier, and since eating is hit or miss, I gotta put the exercise element in. Volleyball once a week is helping and I feel GREAT afterwards, but I want that feeling more often. I have a beginner's walking program I found on sparkpeople that I plan to use.
  •  COOK (and meal plan!). I'm thinking of making big meals or easily-doubled recipes that I can freeze. I also need to clean out the fridge and freezer, so I have room for all this food. 
  • Clean out the pantry!
  • A bunch of little housewife-y projects (all via Pinterest, my internet crack) - all natural cleaner, non-processed cream of whatever-soup mix, clean my dishwasher
  • Make stuff just for the sake of making stuff! Man, I miss crafting. 
So yeah, it's a pretty long to-do list, but I know I will feel SO much better if I get this crap done, esp. if I get in the work-out habit NOW and get it on its way to becoming a habit before I go back to work.

Man, being an adult is exhausting. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Goals Update/Keeping Busy

(Here's the post of the original goals)

My health goals have slipped. I've been better this week, but it's still a bit of an uphill climb to get back on track. I seem to do well during the morning/afternoon, but when I get home I lose all sense of restraint and I'm like "EAT ALL THE CARBS". Urf. On the plus side, we have tried to eat out less this week, and next week our schedule is a little more predictable and stable so we should be able to cook at home more.

No pumpkin-carving party this year, so I'm going to start thinking about an optimal time for a gingerbread bash! I haven't made a gingerbread house since I was a little kid, and Xmas is my favorite holiday of the Holiday Trinity, so I'm pretty psyched. Of course, I need some of that pesky thing called spare time before I can plan anything. *sigh*

Volleyball is moving forward in that I've found a local open-gym night on Thursdays (that of course was closed the first week I'm free) and joined a Meet-up group (that of course has no current scheduled games). I think XOSO's next season starts in November, so come hell or highwater I WILL PLAY VOLLEYBALL SOON.

Finally, my crafting by hand has been on semi-technicalities, but I'll  count it because at least it's making me be creative and take a moment to work with my hands. I technically missed the second week (although I did create some very cute bulletin boards for my classroom, even if my T.A.s technically put half of them together), but last weekend I drew my RPG character for the new campaign my friends and I are playing. (Yes, I'm one of those nerds!)

Guevana, a gnome Rogue. If you don't know what that means, you were probably popular in high school
Tonight I prepped my possible costume for Wednesday - IF it's cool to wear costumes at work. I would think it is, and my costume is perfectly acceptable for teaching (I'm dressing as a "citizen of the Capitol" a la The Hunger Games - I couldn't find an Effie Trinket-style wig, so I settled for a platinum bob wig), but I want to double-check first. I didn't really have to make anything specifically for the costume - heck, the only money I spent was for the wig, because the rest is from my closet. I had a feathery-thingie that's been in my crafts cupboards for years, so I attached it to a bow headband I had from my New Year's Eve dinner party costume (I'm also using the same dress, belt, and earrings). Et voila:

It's gonna look AWESOME with my wig. Very Effie, I think.

I wish I had more to do for Halloween - this year our usual crew was busy helping our friends move into their new house today! Whooo! Unfortunately, though, that means we don't have any plans. Might see if my cousin and her partner will let me come over and pass out candy - that way I can still wear my awesome costume if I can't wear it to work, haha.

Other than that, my schedule is still crazy but I think it might be slowing down and I can catch up (famous last words!). This is in reference to work schedule, of course - the next three weekends are booked solid as well. Oy. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to be so busy, being unemployed drove me NUTS; I think I just like having the right to complain about it. ;D

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Accepting My Size: Size 22-24

I am full-on into the "Fat Pride/Fat Acceptance" movement. Healthy is defined by your inner workings (physical and mental), not your outer shape. Lately I've been unhealthy, using food as my stress relief, but I'm ready to start working back to healthy mode - not for weight loss, but because I like how I feel when I'm making my blood pump and when the food I eat makes me feel good.

Also, I have sweet legs, a killer rack, and a nice caboose, yo, and these must be recognized as such.

My outfit is together, but my desk is in shambles. 


Showin' off my nice legs, cute shoes, and BRAND NEW BIRTHDAY PURSE OMG
These were taken Monday, the day after my 31st birthday. I was in a great mood that morning, but to be honest, the rest of the week was... less than. I'm working my way back to happiness, though; this is a temporary setback due to work circumstances. I still really like my job, though, and my career field despite the efforts of a select few to make things more difficult for me; I also have a lot of catching up to do, so once these things work themselves out and I find a balance again, I think there will be a lot of happiness returning to me. Despite feeling very moody and overwhelmed, I still feel life is good and the second full year of my 30's is off to a nice start with me still feeling very fulfilled.

One of those fulfillment areas is accepting who I am, inside and out. I'm a beautiful woman, and I really love myself a lot of the time.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

One Year Into My 40th Decade

My 4th bday - I've been partying hard since birth, baby
 The 30's are an interesting set of years; it's the decade we all seem to dread getting to, yet once we're here it's almost a relief to see the previous 3 decades finally start to pay off. (Or at least that's what seems to be happening now, finally.)

This isn't to say my life is exactly where I want it to be, but when I hit the big 3-0 without hitting most of my official "success markers" and making myself miserable while stewing on this fact, I finally ran out of f***s to give. I'm still out. It just got exhausting.

And, of course, when I stopped caring is when stuff started to fall into place. It's still early to feel 100% confident that things are going to work out as I hoped (life has made me cynical), but I'm guarded-hopeful and feeling good.

This weekend marked not only the end of some schedule MADNESS that will make my day job a lot easier, but also a nice upswing from last year's birthday. I'm still shaking off my disappointment in myself and some certain people in how my birthday was treated last year; it really hurt me, deeply, but part of that was my own doing. This year, though, I was so busy I didn't even CARE, and The Hubs actually forced me into picking something to do for my bday. When I finally figured that out, I got excited about the weekend, and that led to an overall fantastic weekend. Happiness in celebrating myself, relief at getting my schedule back to my own choices, and joy in finding out that I am more loved than I believed I was last year (and that I need to get the f*** over myself sometimes).

So far, my 30's have actually been fairly excellent, even when I was unemployed. It's definitely nice to be employed again, that's for dang sure. I'm just saying I'm happy so far with how this decade is going, and that's a nice place to be.

That isn't to say there aren't still things I want to work on; I want to create a beautiful life, and find the balance between work and living life. I still live a little too much for work (and considering I'm a teacher, that kind of comes with the job), but I'm hoping that as I work more and become more confident and secure in my job, and find routines that work for me, that it'll start to balance out. I want to cook fresh, delicious food and break the addiction to processed sugars and junk food. I want to take the time to craft with my hands and read books analog-style, and to break my computer/internet addiction. In a lot of ways, my life is getting close to where I want it to be, but there's still some areas that I can control (see previous) and other areas where I can't change but can work on my side of it (see medical issues).

Despite the self-assessed "need for improvement" areas, though, I still feel fairly happy with where I currently am and the direction The Hubs and I are pursuing together. Life is good, and it's nice to feel that way on my actual birthday. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Hello, Autumn!

Can I just state for the record that I much prefer the term "Autumn" instead of "Fall", because I think "Fall" the noun is too easily confused with "Fall" the verb? Not to mention "Autumn" is such a lovely word to roll off the tongue.

Sorry, the English teacher took over for a second there, I'll stop.

It only took until early October, but we are officially experiencing Fall (Autumn) weather around these parts! Which is nice, it's actually a little early this year. Usually our area has a far-too-long "Indian Summer", but the last few days have been slightly crisp and gorgeous. What a relief!

There are several things I like about the Autumn season:
  • my birthday (I'm very self-centered)
  • the colors of the trees as they change
  • the cold weather demands warmer foods and drinks
  • the smell of the air
  • cute Halloween costumes on little kids 
  • coming in from the cold and the feeling of your body getting warmer
  • sweaters and cute boots
  • enjoying Turkey Day, then hosting my extended family for ye olde day of Gobbling (Thanksgiving)
I still want to have a pumpkin-carving day, but I suspect that considering we're having folks over next Saturday for my birthday hootenanny (basically just making a chili bar for sustenance and then hanging out and playing games - hence my hesitation to call it a party) it might be too soon to have another party thingy. But the urge to carve pumpkins is still strong...

Regardless, since I mentioned it, yes it IS my birthday next Sunday! It's also homecoming week at the high school where I work, so it's going to be pretty insane this week *sigh* - at least in a mostly good way. The Hubs is coming out to the Homecoming game Friday night at my request to see my classroom and also support the team. ;D Saturday is a baby shower for friends in the morning, and then my hootenanny that evening, followed by Sunday (actual bday) with my folks coming up to go out to lunch! It'll be a fun week/weekend, but to have to go right back into a work week with no real break is not something I'm looking forward to, to be honest. What can I say, I've become a workaholic now that I'm back in the classroom. It's exhausting and stressful, but I love it (for the most part ;D).

Anyway, yes, it's officially my favorite season and it makes me happy. Cooler weather, my special day, SF Giants are in the playoffs... it's good month/season!

Monday, October 1, 2012

4 simple goals: Week 1

A reminder of what those goals are (Full post here):
  • Meds and healthy eating regularly
  • host a pumpkin-carving/gingerbread-house-making party
  • join a volleyball team or league of some sort
  • craft something once a week
Progress:
I had a rough week, so rough that my body finally went, "Ya know what? EFF THIS, you're taking a day off" - and I ended my week with a head cold and took Friday off so I could rest, ugh. When I get stressed, I resort to old habits out of comfort. So my eating was not very healthy. The ironic part of this is that I should be eating healthier when I'm stressed, because it makes me feel physically worse. Fortunately, after a few days of eating like this, it loses its novelty and I crave the good stuff, so I usually find my way back, which is nice. It's a small step back as opposed to several steps. Meds are on the reg, though, which is good.

The party will happen; of course, the next party I'm having will not have pumpkin carving or gingerbread house construction, it's for my birthday! We're keeping it simple this year, because last year was just a clustereff in that it left me emotionally destroyed and set me back in my insecurities for really STUPID reasons. Ugh. Don't get me wrong, my birthday ended up being awesome, but fretting over the guest list and how many people weren't coming or were only coming to the dinner kind of ruined it for me. Still ended up having a good bday weekend, though. This year is simple: Game night at our apartment with food and adult beverages and friends, and the actual day of the birthday has my parents coming here for lunch, which is nice.

I found a volleyball group on MeetUp.com, but it's only bi-weekly. I plan to join the soonest one after my volleyball coaching ends, and I'm on the email list for the XOSO social league so when the next "season" starts I'll hopefully sign up in time.

And crafting! I actually hadn't gotten around to making anything (as Friday and Saturday was mostly resting, although Saturday I did catch up on work and go see "Looper" - really good movie, btw), so this morning I decided to do some art journaling.
"The older I get, the more I like myself "
Granted, I'd previously stamped the background and apparently never did anything with it, so this wasn't terribly difficult. Took about half an hour, but it was nice to just sit there and decorate something to (hopefully) make it pretty. It's not my best work, but it looks nice and gave me some tranquility while I made it. Next weekend I want to make a button monogram in a shadowbox!

One bonus about these simple goals: They're not overwhelming, and it gives me a reason to update. Whooo!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Life inspiration (Blogs That Are Awesome)

So I'm a bit of an addict on the internet. Pinterest is one of my new favorites - all that awesome inspiration for life. DIYs, tasty-looking recipes, fashion... All in one place and lots of it!

Only problem is that I spend a ton of time being inspired, and very little time actually DOING stuff.

Also, in my self-protective-denial-of-reality-blame-throwing-reflexive-defense, where do people have the time to do stuff like the projects listed here at tatertots and jello? Don't get me wrong, the work featured is INCREDIBLE and I'm 100% jealous of the creativity on display. I'm also defensive because I could probably do that, too, but who the freak has the time?

You know who has the time?

People that MAKE the time.

Yeah, that's aimed at me more than you.

I seem to prefer to live vicariously through the internet's pursuits than live my own life. This feels like deja vu to even write this, so I'm pretty sure I've waxed rhapsodic about this before. As such, I'll assume you're tired of hearing about it and move on to the main point: 4 Simple Goals by 2013, as inspired by A Beautiful Mess.

image c/o A Beautiful Mess

So their suggested rules are fairly simple - simple goals that will make you feel richer and happier, focused on a practice NOT an end goal, and when you meet the goals before 2013 you should reward yourself. (More specifics at the link provided!)

So here's mine, along with the reward that should come with it, and elaboration if needed:
  • Keep up my healthy eating changes and taking my medicines - the reward here will be seeing results at my 3-month check-up. IF I get the results I want (I know, I know, it's not supposed to be an end-goal goal, but I'm cheating on this one), I think I'll allow myself to buy some new clothes - but not for me. (Being vague on purpose, sorry.)
  • Host either a pumpkin-carving party or gingerbread-house-making party. I've been wanting to do one of these for a while, darn it. Throwing the party itself will be its own reward, I think.
  • Join the next xoso social league for volleyball, or a volleyball MeetUp.com group - I've been playing again a little bit as part of coaching the middle school girls team, and I didn't realize how much I missed it until I started practicing with them. The season ends in 3 weeks, and while part of me will be relieved (due to it taking up a LOT of time 4 days a week), I want to keep it up; the local social league might be the way to do that, or if I can find a volleyball group locally. 
  • make something with my hands at least once a week. Unfortunately, with my schedule I haven't been crafting as much as I would like - and frankly, I don't know when I'll have the time again until after my coaching stops. BUT that doesn't mean I can't whip up a little craftiness one night a week. I like art journalling, and that will be my goal to make it more of a habit than a passing fancy, so I figure if I commit to making a new page per day, that's a reasonable goal. As for a reward... if I craft once a week starting today, only missing one week (like my birthday week, which is freakin' PACKED), I'm going to let myself buy new craft supplies, up to $50 worth!
A nice side effect of this little goal thingie - gives me something to blog about! LUCKY YOU. ;p

Side note about A Beautiful Mess - it's such a pretty blog to read, and the content is substantial without being blustery (unlike my own). I must confess that occasionally it comes off a leetle hipster-precious (which makes me role my eyes SO HARD - I'm just a hater), but even those hipster-precious posts are still worth viewing; just 'cuz it's not my taste doesn't mean it's not good stuff. Check them out! Drool-worthy and totally-doable recipes, great life inspiration, and a fun attitude towards life in general.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Why Vegans Are Such Pretentious Douchebags

So I finally figured it out - why healthy eaters are so damn annoying.

In order to uncover this mystery, I had to become one. It was a dark, perilous journey, fraught with confronting long-held resentments towards vegetables and exercise (although to be honest, exercise and I are still barely on speaking terms).

Due to my medical diagnoses, I've had to make some changes to my lifestyle and eating habits (Ok, I guess I didn't HAVE to, I could have continued eating terrible and felt like crap all the time). So now I limit my carbs, and when I do eat carbs I try to stick to the healthier ones - the non-refined sugars and flours ones.The exercise is by default - going from sedentary unemployed waste-of-space to on-my-feet-all-day-SUPER-TEACHER sure does burn up a lot of calories as your body struggles to adjust. (Dear god, we've been in school nearly a month and I'm just NOW getting used to it.) I've also taken on a coaching position at the local middle school, which is super fun and adds the occasional light sweat from chasing them around and serving/setting the ball to the girls.

This isn't to say these changes have been consistent (pssh, I basically had my 3-month check-in on Thursday, found out my changes had a very positive effect, and effectively went on a 3-day carb BINGE that made me remember WHY I cut them out in the first place), but for the most part I actually like the changes. I still eat the occasional "bad" piece of food, though, so I'm no angel.

So the other night, as I was chopping up cucumbers and carrots for my salad to serve alongside my oven-roasted wild salmon, thinking about how a few months ago I'd be eating something really bad for dinner, and how great I felt and how I wish I could tell people about these mostly-successful changes but I was afraid I'd come off like an a**hole.

Which is when it dawned on me: maybe this is why everyone hates health-nuts - they get so excited about what they're doing that they talk about it to people who just want to eat their delicious fried food and not have to consider the consequences of their choices, dammit (I know I give The Hubs a "DON'T SAY A G-D WORD" glare when I'm being naughty).

Seriously, this MUST be why vegans tend to be such pretentious a-holes - they just feel so healthy, which means they feel GOOD all the time and they want everyone else to know so they can feel good, too! Apparently, Veganism makes you feel SO EFFING INCREDIBLE that it makes you a pretentious jag who gets off on telling people what horrible meat-eaters they are.

Man, I may be veering towards health-nuttiness but I could never be a vegan. I love cheese too much. Maybe that's the difference - lacto-vegetarians I've met have never been too preachy, and the few Paleo-dieters I know are pretty chill about it as well, but vegans... VEGANS. The few I've met in life have been at best fine to talk to - until food comes up. It just makes me want to eat a big Double-Double Animal-style in front of them, and only Animal-style because it seems even more meat-murderous.

There's no real point to this other than I found my little lightening-strike moment funny, and to share that my healthy habit-changes actually worked. My doctors are really happy with my progress, and it looks like my next 3-month check-in should have more good news should I keep up the good work. =)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Night Routine: How to Address the Need to De-stress

Ok, that title makes NO sense, I just love rhyme and alliteration. Hello, English teacher, I'm a nerd. DEAL WITH IT.

Anyway, so I've made it through 8 days of teaching after being off (again) for a year (again). While it's been mostly a great 8 days, I'm already tired, frustrated, worried, and feeling like I'm behind.

To be fair and show that I CAN see the forest for the trees on occasion, I'm not really that behind (hell, I'm actually a week ahead in lesson plans, and I've got the year outlined down to the week), and what makes me worried and frustrated is mostly my own natural instinct to only expect perfection from myself. *sigh*

Part of the tired comes from bad shoes, too - that problem is on its way to being resolved, in that the shoes are ordered and will hopefully ship this week. If you're on your feet all day and like to look cute, too - Aravons, my friends. Pricy but worth it - they last a nice long while (or at least my last pair did - the shoes themselves are actually still decent, it's the liners that gave out after 2 years.) But bad shoes plus not being used to so much physical activity adds up - I hit my first wall on Thursday, but I recognized it and took the time to take care of myself. Which in this case was to go home at a reasonable hour and just relax, then made sure to go to bed a little earlier than I had been. Made a HUGE difference, and I was still tired the next day but MAN my mood was vastly improved.

Now I can't go home earlier every day, but I can try to make my night routine more relaxing. One thing I did right the first week but used my "I'm too tired" excuse to not continue the second week was a nice shower at night - granted, the night shower was a little easier because I was milking a blow-out. So tonight (since it's basically my Sunday night - yay for 3-day weekends!) I'm showering and doing the "first half" of the blow-out (where I basically dry my hair semi-straight with straightening creme) with the plan to use my straightening iron tomorrow morning. Breakfast and lunch is mostly prepped for the week already (hashbrown quiches in the morning, Bentos for lunch), so after I shower and do some quick chores, I'm going to initiate a new ritual to really get me relaxed: A nice cup of tea. HOT tea.

Plus who doesn't enjoy this kind of awesome delivery method?

Yes, it's still summer (at least here in CA, where it'll last until October where I live), but warm beverages are soothing. I've become a coffee fiend partly for the caffeine fix, but also because it's warm and it soothes me. It's a nice morning ritual that adds to my morning drive.

So it dawned on me this weekend that I get the same sensation from tea, and I've been wanting to go to bed earlier - so why not make myself some tea at night? Plus it'll give me the added benefit of feeling like a "dessert" at the end of the night, esp. with some stevia, and I'm hoping it'll make me "end" my day. I play on the internet and watch TV and my mind stays so over-stimulated that I fear it's keeping me awake. I only go to bed (and later than I want to) because my body finally overwhelms my brain... but I'm tired of waiting for my body to win the battle.

So, TEA. I know, it's so new and amazing, right?!?
I know I should be embarrassed that it took me THIS long to figure out, but hey, that's why I'm a hot mess. This year has been a lot of accepting my age (UGH SO OLD) and trying to figure out how to best take care of myself emotionally and physically. A nice warm shower at night (meaning more sleep in the morning) and a warm cup of tea to help me shut down sounds like just the ticket to help me take care of myself some more.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Prepping for Back to Work/School: Weekends

So I've been back at work for a week now, with the students not showing up until this past Wednesday. It was confusing, exhausting, and WONDERFUL. I missed being a teacher. The only downside is that I don't have the right work shoes because I can't afford them until payday, so my feet are pretty much in revolt and furious with me. I can't say I blame them. Soon, though, my lovelies, soon you will be dressed in the proper accoutrements.

Anyway. So the prepping for back to school helped, and has resulted in a weekend routine (well, all of two Sundays so far, but here's hoping) that is working out fairly well. Basically, I plan my meals on the MOST AWESOME EXCEL TEMPLATE EVER (more on that in a second), I grocery shop Saturday since I'm usually already out anyway, and then Sunday is my "mellow" day, in which I prep what I can in advance food- and lessons-wise at my own leisurely pace. (Lessons first, because it saves my sanity and I just enjoy doing it, oddly enough, haha... if I retire or change careers, it'd probably be into materials development for education, I love finding creative ways to enhance lessons. Anyways, TANGENT.)

So Sunday was about 4 hours of lesson planning (only because I took my time and watched TV while doing so - minus the TV, would have easily been under 2, if that), then I made a tasty but easy dinner while prepping food for the week. Here's how it went, which actually serves nicely as an example:

First, I already had the menu all planned in my Excel template, which I found here for free and it is AWESOME. Seriously, it took about 2 hours to figure out what meals I wanted to pre-load in the meal tabs, but now my menu planning is SO MUCH FASTER IT'S AWESOME. (Instructions in the spreadsheet tell you how to change their food options, in case you are un-excel-errated like I am.) (Get the pun? Huh? HUH? ;D)

(I'm sorry for all the zaniness. I'm loopy from exhaustion.)

Anyway, screen cap of my menu for the week:

If you can click to embiggen, you'll see that daily I plan to have Spinach Smoothies (which are AWESOME, btw) and hard-boiled eggs for breakfast, and half of a baked potato with (canned) beanless chili and cheese for my lunch, along with a small salad.

Dinner was NOT crockpot BBQ chicken; we changed our mind to tomato soup and grilled cheese. So here's the order in which I prepped for my breakfasts and lunches for the week while dinner cooked:
  • Washed and pierced the potatoes, threw them in the oven.
  • Poured the pre-made tomato soup into a pan, added the beans and italian seasoning, and let it start to simmer while I browned the Italian sausage crumbles. 
  • I added the sausage to the soup, let it continue to simmer while I sliced up some bananas for the Spinach Smoothie recipes (which needs frozen banana slices), enough for the work week.
  • As the soup bubbled, I turned it to low and made the grilled cheese sandwiches, and took a dinner break. 
  • After dinner, I showered and threw my hair in a towel to sop up water while I chopped up some romaine to rinse & spin in my salad spinner; then I cut one of the cooled potatoes in half, slathered it in chili, and slapped a lid on it (and also threw together a salad of romaine, spinach, and cucumber with a little plastic thing full of dressing in another tupperware) - and made another one for Tuesday! All I have to add is sliced cucumber to the salad and a baggie of shredded cheese, and my lunch for Tuesday is done as well. 
  • Then I blew my hair dried enough to finish styling in the morning (which only semi-worked - I wanted big loose curls, but I used too much conditioner and my hair got a nice loose wave but not quite what I wanted. Meh, I'll straighten it tomorrow)
Actually, that's another way I'm saving time in the morning (which means more sleep, YAAAAY) - if I dry my hair, I milk the hell out of it. Last week I blew it dry and straight-ironed it Wednesday morning,  re-ironed any bumps Thursday, then used dry shampoo and pulled it back with a headband for Friday. Today was the big waves, tomorrow will be straight, and Wednesday might be another headband day (not sure yet).

Tonight I'm washing out the dishes for my smoothies in the morning, then slicing some cucumber so it's less to do in the morning (more sleep yay!), and maybe my nails, too. Then I'll take a body-only shower, make my coffee and smoothie (which I'll down on the way to work). I've had plenty of time to relax, and my nails are a soothing "chore", so I don't mind it as much. Plus it feels good to make my mornings easier!

I apologize if this comes off as bragging, as that's not my intention - I figure that it's taken me THIS long to figure out how to stuff (and I still eff it up half the time, but lately I've been riding a very slow train of half-successes, which is really good for me!), so I should share what I figure out in case there's anyone else who is not making as graceful a transition to grown-upness like I am. Can't hurt to share info, right?

Here's to a successful week! Now to go do those little chores before I get too tired to bother. ;D

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Recipes I'm loving lately

One thing I love about the internet is that it allows me to find all sorts of new food ideas and recipes. I mean, seriously, I cannot tell you how big my "recipes" computer folder is (FYI: it's 103 MB), which doesn't include the physical binder of magazine tear-outs, and my massive Pinterest boards, broken into "Om Nom Nom Nom" (less healthy recipes) and "HEALTHY Om Nom Nom" (self-explanatory). I'll even take a snapshot with my phone of something that looks good in a magazine in a waiting room. Like I've said, I do honestly love to cook, I'm just usually too lazy. Hahaha.

That said, as a motivator to eat healthier, I've been seeking out and trying new ones, and I've actually found a few that are worth sharing! Unfortunately, I'm not a food blogger, so I rarely (if ever) take pictures of my food - and the few times I do, they're pretty crappy... as evidenced by previous food posts. xD

(None of the pictures are mine, please click the links to go to the recipe!)

Mexican Chicken












We liked this a lot, although I want to find a better enchilada sauce OR maybe try making my own - the sauce I bought had a weird bitterness (but it didn't bug The Hubs). We served this with refried beans and a salad, and I honestly didn't miss tortillas.

Adobo Pork Chops










THIS IS SO GOOD. The key is to let it marinade a LOOOONG time; I made this full recipe, but only cooked half the day of, and froze the other half - the frozen half we had a couple of weeks later was waaaay better. The Hubs figured it was the fact that it marinaded as it defrosted overnight in the fridge - the flavor really penetrated, whereas the first batch was tasty but not as deep (despite a 6-hour marinade).

Slow-Cooker Savory BBQ Chicken











I made this with chicken legs (They were cheaper at the time), and it was tasty. Might try adding a smidge of sweetness with Stevia next time, though, because we like our sauce a little sweeter.


My friend Traci's chili

It's goooood. Not too spicy, a little too tomatoey, but that's a bug that can be worked out.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Prepping for Back to Schoo/Work: Routines

So as I may have mentioned before/is viewable in that little profile blurb to the left -->, I'm a teacher. More specifically, a high school English teacher. All teachers would probably agree with me that a major component of classroom organization is ROUTINE. Kids love routines - even older kids that don't like to be called kids, a.k.a. teenagers. Heck, it's human nature to prefer routine - there's comfort in familiarity and the expected, and it makes life easier to know what to do in certain situations.

Love this, but didn't make it. Fitting, though.
That said, I've never been great at establishing routines outside of the classroom. Or, I guess I should say I've never been good at establishing EFFECTIVE routines. I routinely wait until the last minute to do things or hit the snooze button - so it's not like I don't have routines, they're just routines I don't want. ;p There's some dysfunction in my personality that rebels against the idea of HAVING to do things; it drives me nuts, and at the same time I'm like "UUUUGH DON'T WANNA." Now I'm trying to be better.

Since I'm a grown-@$$ woman and need to get my shtuff in order, I've been trying to get used to a morning routine. I'm currently working at a camp for international students, and I teach ESL in the mornings, so it's similar to the scholastic setting to which I'll return in about 3 weeks. (In other news, HOLY CRAP I ONLY HAVE 3 MORE WEEKS TO PREPARE.) So I've been trying to create a routine in the mornings that I can work with, and get used to it for the next 3 weeks so I can ease into the school year, rather than it be a big ol' shock, y'know? The first weeks of school are always tough when you're getting used to the routine again, so the easier I can make it on myself, the better.

This is the morning routine I'm trying to establish:
  • Wake up, 10-minute workout (yes, just 10 minutes - I'm easing myself into it)
  • shower, hair and make-up done
  • make and eat breakfast
  • take Daisy out for a nice walk (about 20 minutes)
I've been getting up about 2 hours before I need to leave for work for this routine... it's way more time than I need, but I like it because I don't have to rush. Which, when I leave for work at 8:30, isn't so early... but in 3 weeks, I'll be leaving for work at 6:30. Getting up 2 hours earlier, which would be 4:30... yeah, I don't know. Might need to work it into 1.5 hours earlier. Probably could save myself some time by jumping out of bed, not dilly-dallying on my phone trying to wake up.

So far, I've managed all but the workouts. Heh. I need to work on that, obviously - so that's my focus this week; the idea is to get 3 separate 10-minute workouts of decent intensity done morning, noon, and late afternoon (like when I get home from work). Eventually, I'd like to up the workouts to 20 minutes. It's not a vanity thing - it's literally doctor's orders... but I've never been one to workout for the sake of working out, which is why I'm trying to do it in short spurts. (Unless I find a class I like, then on days I take an exercise class I'll excuse myself from the other workouts as long as it's equivalent to the time I'd normally workout.) Again, though, this is why I've given myself some time to establish this routine - the more habitual it is when school starts, the less problematic it will be to keep it up, hopefully.

The other routine I'd like to establish is a kitchen-related one. First is that I want to prep my lunch at the same time I'm making dinner, like get dinner in the oven/prolonged cooking time, and in the in-between time, prep whatever I need for lunch the next day so it's ready to grab and go in the morning. I would also like to take that in-between time, or after eating time, to do the dishes. I have good weeks and bad weeks of doing the dishes daily, but I also hate the dishes piling up. They still DO, but man do I hate it. ;p

The biggest thing I'm fighting here is myself and that natural reluctance do things that I HAVE to do, or that I'm EXPECTED to do; I'm not normally a rebellious person, but basic housekeeping/chores has always been something I've fought. Yet I prefer living in a cleaner house and having life be a little easier, so I need to do little things throughout the week rather than big overhauling things once in a while, which is more exhausting and frustrating. Right? Right.

Makes perfect sense, and yet I still drag my feet kicking and screaming. I am noticing a little less kicking and screaming, though. Maybe I'm finally growing up!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Prepping for Back to School/Work: Food

So one thing I've been struggling with for years is my "chore" of cooking dinner. We've gotten better about limiting our buying of meals instead of cooking, but that's partly been because I've been home more often to cook. Even then, I still stick to fairly simple meals; I like to cook (and certainly LOVE to eat), but I'm not a huge fan of super-complicated cooking most of the time. Sometimes the prep is worth it, obviously, but usually I'd rather pay other people to do it. ;D

So what does a gal do when she's the only one in the family who can make food taste good, but she's got a 2-hour commute and an 8+-hour a day job?

Plan, prep in advance, and cut yourself some slack.

Here's how I usually deal with cooking during the week; It's not always consistent, but for the most part this strategy works well for us.

Sunday: A slow-cooker meal; I'll usually make a big recipe and freeze the leftovers for a future Monday meal
Monday: an easy pre-made meal, either from our own frozen leftovers or frozen dinners from the store, like orange chicken and brown rice & veggies from Trader Joe's. Basic heat n' eats, because Mondays are exhausting enough on their own.
Tuesday-Thursday: Simple-to-prepare meals, usually a protein and vegetable (maybe some carbs if I've been good). If I'm especially organized
Friday & Saturday: Free days - since we usually have plans on the weekend, it's just easier to assume we won't be eating at home; since we eat home the rest of the week, we budget for it. Plus, usually one of those meals is at a friend's house, so we only have to pay for something to share with our friends.

What I NEED to work on is making my breakfasts and lunches while also cooking dinner - that way, I don't have to wake up earlier or starve/spend money. It's a habit I need to work on - usually there's enough time between when I start cooking to when the food is done that I could easily get my food for the next day done as well, so I plan to start doing that. Of course, I plan to work out and eat more veggies, but the plan takes a while to come to fruition - although the veggies are happening more often!

The point is, I'm trying to figure out ways to make my life easier while also meeting our basic needs - but in a cost-effective manner. It's a balancing act of convenience, responsibility, and budget. It's worth it to spend a little money for ease on the weekend IF we've been good the rest of the week.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Yay/Boos: 4th of July edition

On my locked-up previous personal online journal, I used to do what I called "Yay/Boos", which was listing the latest going on in my life and ranking them as either good things (Yay) or bad (Boo). Yes, I know, fairly obvious ranking system - I over-explain. Here we go!
  • Yay! My life is busy again - with purpose! I have work stuff that needs to be accomplished, which makes me excited about the future while also feeling like I have self-worth. 
  • Boo. Unfortunately, my ridiculousness likes to manifest itself in procrastination, which means I get a little bit done every day, but not as much as I should. I also have been using "work" as my excuse to not work on the around-the-home projects I wanted to complete this summer. The only thing preventing me from doing both are my own lame excuses and feeling the "need" (not a need at all) of relaxing before work kicks in around mid-August. No one to blame but myself for these setbacks.
  • Yay! I just got a mild kick-in-the-butt to get some stuff done NOW, as I've been given a deadline of sorts that will force me to work. I needed it - I procrastinate, but I work well on deadlines. 
  • Boo. Deadlines and work stuff resulted in my having to bow out of a project that I'd committed to previously. My reasons for bowing out were legitimate, but I shouldn't have agreed to doing it in the first place. I upset someone, which as a natural people-pleaser I hate doing, but I have to own that they have a right to be upset and I also have to own that I did, in fact, screw up a little on this one. 
  • Yay! 4th of July-related: our friends the S's hosted a BBQ that was really fun. We really like our local circle of friends, and the location of the S's house is remote enough that we were actually able to watch several different firework shows, then play with our own (legal) fireworks while we listened to a (very well-selected) playlist at loud volume without disturbing any neighbors - it's that remote, haha. It was such a great night. Lots of laughs, good food, good times!
  • Boo. It got chilly when it got dark, so brilliant me thought it'd be a good idea to have a small cup of coffee to help keep warm. I'm still awake about 3 hours later. I really need to fully quit the caffeine and never partake of it again. 
  • Yay! A portion of the BBQ was also spent discussing our upcoming camping weekend. I'm so excited for it - I haven't been camping since I was in high school (not counting actual summer camps - those don't count since you have a bed ;D). I'm not exactly an outdoorsy type, but I do enjoy hanging out outdoors, and the basic hanging out outdoors. It's the hiking that doesn't appeal to me as much (well, super-lengthy ones, and only because I'm out of shape). 
  • Yay! I had to make fruit salad for the BBQ today, and even buying the "cheap" fruit resorted in a ton of leftovers that didn't even go in the (very large) salad. The salad was completely gone by the end of the BBQ, so now I have tons of delicious extra fruit for snacking but not in an overwhelming amount! (Small related side-boo: the store I went to didn't have blueberries, and I bought the yellow necatrines instead of the white ones, therefore not making my "Red White and Blue fruit salad" idea. But it's nitpicking, really.)
  • Boo. Came home, people are being morons on the internet (not directed at me, thankfully), and it made me have anger feels. I didn't troll or anything, but it still annoyed me. 
  • Yay! I had some fun craft inspirations recently, and it makes me want to get to craftin'. I haven't had true crafting motivation in a while, so it's nice to have it again. 
On that note, I have some list-making to do for the next few days, so I'm going to do that.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

What Works For Me: Learning to Love My Veggies

Ok, so here's the thing.

As I've mentioned before, I have to change my eating habits for health reasons - mainly working on cutting out the unhealthy carbs, which are basically all the white (and DELICIOUS) ones. Ideally, I'm aiming to eat as few carbs as possible at dinner (so I'm eating the healthy carbs during the day, when I'm more likely to burn off energy), which means I need to sub those carb-y side dishes that I'm used to with vegetables.

The "problem" (because, let's be honest, if it ain't famine, homelessness, or warfare, it ain't really a problem) is that The Hubs and I are semi-finicky eaters and only like certain veggies. Actually, I am semi-finicky while The Hubs is FINICKY. I have reliable veggies that I like - salad greens and spinach, cucumbers, celery, carrots (raw only), broccoli, green beans,artichokes, cauliflower, and asparagus... that's about it. Some of those veggies The Hubs will eat, and even then he'll only eat them certain ways (like the carrots have to be cooked, and he only likes asparagus if it's roasted). I'll try veggies that I didn't like previously to see if my tastes have changed (because sometimes they have), but it's rare that they change, and The Hubs is even more resistant to changes. For the most part, though, I either steam them or eat a salad. I esp. enjoy lunch salads (I'm so trying the mason jar salads when work starts back up... Mmmm!)

That said, if we're going to eat veggies as our main side at dinner, I'd like to find some decent variations on them. Here's some methods I've tried so far, and recipes I've found that I'm planning to try!

Tried:
  • Pureed - Works like a charm so far, but I've only tried it in stuff that's sauce-based. But, I mean, seriously, in the veggie meat sauce I made, the veggies are all so minute that I can eat vegetables in which I hate their texture - like peppers, zucchini, and tomatoes! I'm trying this trick next with a Jambalaya recipe that is otherwise delicious-looking except for the peppers and tomatoes that are only chopped - they will be pureed to be easier to "choke down" for Mr. and Mrs. Finicky.
    See? You can't even SEE all those veggies - and it is LOADED with them!
  • Roasted - So far I've only tried this with veggies I already like, with one exception - my friends the P's had us over a few years ago for Xmas Eve dinner, and they made roasted brussel sprouts. I hesitated at first, because I'm not a huge cabbage fan, and the only way my folks made them was boiled (and they smelled AWFUL). But I tried them, and they were DELICIOUS. Of course, I haven't had them since, but I have a recipe "pinned" on Pinterest to try. Basically, I want them as crispy as possible. My favorite roasted veggie so far has been roasting broccoli - it tastes like broccoli tempura without all that pesky battering process. YUM. 
  • Grated - if I can get away with grating a version of an "icky" veggie, I will. I tried a recipe for a Thai peanut-style chicken  in the slow-cooker, which was not that great. BUT it called for grated zucchini as part of the recipe, and I'll be darned, you can't taste it. I've also made zucchini pancakes, which was also highly enjoyable. 
Recipes I'm excited to try:
  • Green Monster Spinach Smoothie - it's supposed to taste like a delicious smoothie, and I'm willing to give it a shot because I like spinach raw AND cooked, so I figure with it's mild taste I won't notice it and the texture isn't a problem in the first place. Plus I get a load of vitamins, protein, and fiber in one drink? Um, SOLD. I'll report on how it tastes! If it tastes good and whirs up fast, I'm thinking it'll be a great easy breakfast when I start teaching!
    It borders on disturbingly green, though.
  • Crustless Spinach and feta pie - Hmmm, spinach and cheese. Gee, sounds like a tough choice. I'm thinking this will be great next to some grilled chicken. Mmm. 
  • Vegetable "pasta" - I want to try this because I had a delightful meal at a really nice restaurant in NYC years ago (which I can't remember the name of, except that it was really long and old-sounding and I think it was in the East Village) that was basically the same type of veggie "pasta" with this great tomato sauce, shrimp, and parmesan cheese. I was skeptical that I'd like the veggies, but with the sauce they were great! I figure it's worth another shot. 
  • Zucchini tots - I like this as an alternative to zucchini pancakes, which have a lot of breading. This seems like it'd get more zucchini, less carbs. What a fun side dish to go with burgers - hopefully it'll help me cut off the potatoes. 
  • Mashed cauliflower "potatoes" - I haven't tried these before, but my friends who have say it's worth the effort. I love cauliflower, so I can't really seeing going wrong. Cheesy cauliflower pancakes are worth a shot as well. 
I'm actually excited to try all these new veggie recipes - esp. the smoothie and the "tots"! As you can see, I've got some options to make me eat more veggies, but I'm open to ideas! Please share your favorite ways to prepare veggies, I'm begging you. The simpler the better, 'cuz I'm a lazy cook. ;D



Thursday, June 28, 2012

How to Road Trip like a BOSS

What I learned from my first official road trip ever:
  • Find a partner (in my case, a husband) who is willing to do most of the driving, because you have a weird undiagnosed case of Car Narcolepsy (I get sleepy within an hour of driving). 
  • "Pack" your phone with lots of podcasts - we stuck with "Doug Loves Movies" this trip. 
  • Take a pretty driving route, if possible; as we were going to the Oregon coast, we could have taken the famous 101, but we opted not to due to both of us not being fans of super-curvy roads. Go fig, taking I-5 instead was still fairly curvy - but also pretty freakin' gorgeous, too:

    Well, what I saw while I was awake. Seriously, I can sleep in a car like it's my own bed, and the motion/vibrations or something make me SO SLEEPY. Poor The Hubs, he must have been so bored.
  • Bring snacks that aren't perishable. We went with fruit, and some 100-calorie packs of crackers and cookies. Next time I'm bringing nuts and beef jerky, 'cuz those crackers/cookies don't fill up your belly at all. 
  • Make the biggest drive the one to the farthest-away destination, then work your way back - I think The Hubs would agree that having one big driving day, then two driving days that were half as long as the first day, was much less exhausting. Our main destination (Bandon, OR) was the farthest away point, then we drove halfway back and stayed in Ashland, OR for the night. It split our drive home in half, which was way less stressful.
  • If possible, make the final destination a place with a hot tub. Man, that was nice when we got there - The Hubs was very excited to soak his tired bones in that mofo, I tell you what. 
Yes, I know I'm spoiled having a partner who is willing to drive the long distances. In my slight defense, I offered often to take over, and when we were driving in-town I took over (so he had a whole day where he didn't do any driving). Anyway, that's the reason for no blogging - went on vacay, came back and had to immediately jump into various job responsibilities for the last two days. (NOT COMPLAINING, actually nice to be so busy doing teaching-related stuff again!)

To finish, here's the gorgeous Pacific Ocean as seen from the Oregon coast:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Living in the Clean World - Attempting Clean(er) Eating

So as I've mentioned before, my medical issues are 1 for 2 so far in regards to the issues getting better. The one that's getting better is, of course, only really helped by medicine. The other is a mixture of meds (which we're still trying to get right) and a lifestyle change. "Lifestyle change" meaning "STOP SHOVING JUNK FOOD IN YOUR GOB, MORON". Or at least that's how it translates to me.

Of course, the problem is that junk food is delicious. Man oh man, I love junk food. Actually, I love food, but I especially love those refined sugars and carbs. Mmm, mmm, mmm.  It's hard to stop eating them, too... it feels like an addiction. In fact, my nurse practitioner said that it IS like an addiction, and understands how hard it is.

I miss eating carbs. I hate dieting. I hate having to accept the fact that I have to pay attention to what I eat and count calories. It's the WORST, and when I've been "good" for a few days, my addiction kicks in and I'm going nuts wanting what I know isn't good for me - then I give in and feel bad (emotionally and physically).

I realize how immature it is of me to say these things, though, and I'm in the position where I'm working my way to it. I've done lots of research on websites that have explained how I should be eating to best treat my condition, and I think I can do it. It's not as terrible as I thought, and if I make these changes, I will feel better and my body will help to heal itself.

That said, this is easier said than done. The best way I've found to make eating healthy easier is to find shortcuts and substitutes that make me feel like I'm not being deprived. For example, I love burgers - I love them on buns, so if I'm at a restaurant (like the other night) and I want a burger, I'll get the darn burger and forgo the fries for a salad. If I really want the fries, though, either I eat both and feel gross, or I gotta find a solution.

Well, luckily, The Counter figured out a solution, and I'm cribbing the idea for myself. For those not fortunate enough to live near one of The Counter's locations (which now includes me, because the local branch recently closed), it's basically a build-your-own-burger joint that offers, like, a crazy amount of options for burger meat, bun, toppings, and sauces. It's awesome (their fries and shakes are awesome, also), and one of the options they offer is to forgo the bun entirely and have a "burger bowl". Basically, the burger is served on a pile of lettuce (either a lettuce blend or mixed greens) instead of the bun options, and you can still build it with all the same toppings and sauces. They had some crazy-fun toppings, like these carrot strings that were these insanely long curlicues that were so crazy my friend took a picture of me attempting to eat them:

They are INSANE. That is ALL carrot!
So when I had a hamburger for lunch the other day (and I'm not keeping bread in the house to avoid temptation), I remembered the crazy-awesome burger bowls and made my own!

The burger: pre-made turkey (on sale for $2 for 4 big ones) that I grilled on the Foreman with some Montreal Steak Seasoning on both sides.
The cheese: Pesto Jack from Spring Hill Jersey Creamery
The Bowl: romaine lettuce, cucumbers, and lite ranch dressing. Unfortunately, I didn't have a lot of toppings in my fridge to add to my bowl o' salad, and the idea sounded so good that I didn't want to rush to the store for one freakin' meal. Plus, my own carrot strings will never live up to the greatness that is the Counter's carrot strings.


That said, it was a tasty lunch! (After taking the photo, I cut up the burger to make eating it easier.) (Also, there ARE cucumbers on that plate, they just disappear into the lettuce apparently.) I didn't even miss the bun! Slap a small amount of sweet potato fries on the side (and some more salad toppings, because I'll plan ahead next time), and I've got a meal that tastes great and I can eat without shame! Whooo!

Also, I am very aware that I suck at food photography. Hello, the name's "Hot Mess Housewife"!

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Week's Worth of Good News - in 2 days!

This past Wednesday was a great freakin' day. It started off a little bleh, because I was waiting to get a phone call on whether or not I would get the job I interviewed for the day before. When I didn't hear from the interviewers by noon, I assumed no news was, in this case, bad news. Of course, the phone ringing three times before this conclusion didn't help matters - luckily, one of those calls was my sister, who finally has some time to squeeze me in for hanging out, yay! First good bit of news that day.

Then I received an email that offered me an interesting project to work on that would earn some money, so I wrote back agreeing to meet about it. I also discovered that "Thor" was finally available on Netflix for instant watch - ever since seeing "The Avengers", I've been wanting to catch up on the other movies featuring Avenger superheroes that I hadn't seen, and "Thor" had been elusive. (Turns out I wasn't missing much. ;P) So things were looking up!

The phone rings; it's the HR department from the prospective job. She tells me, voice calm and serious, "The interview panel has made their decision..." My stomach immediately knots itself while I try to tell myself that I already suspected I wasn't getting this one, and at this point I shouldn't be that shocked...

"... and they would like to offer the position to you."

"REALLY?" (I so wish that wasn't my response and that I'd played it cool, but I was legitimately surprised!)

The HR lady laughed and confirmed that yes, it was me they wanted. So did I accept?

I managed to not curse with excitement while accepting the position. :) I start in the fall, and I'm very excited for my new position. Plus it's a relief to know I'll be working for at least 10 months, not to mention I know THIS EARLY in the summer, which is a rare luxury for teachers. I have all summer to plan out the school year - it's so exciting!

The Hubs brought me home what every girl deserves as a congratulation gift - Roses and ice cream. What can I say, the man knows me. ;D My mother was so excited that she posted about it to Facebook before I even got a chance! I also had lots of excitement from my close friends and Facebook peeps, which made my heart swell. And to top it all off, Matt Cain of the SF Giants pitched a perfect game! Ok, that part isn't as exciting to me as it was to The Hubs, but it was still pretty awesome altogether.

The next day also had good news, if you can believe it! Well, ok, it was mixed news - one of my two main health issues is resolving itself nicely, but the other one has actually gotten worse DESPITE treatment. It also turns out that I was misdiagnosed by my previous doctor (which is yet another reason to despise that doctor's practice, UGH), but I've been referred to a specialist to work on fixing the still-existent issue and to double-check the possible misdiagnosis. Working with the specialist now will also benefit me later, because once I get the still-problematic issue under control we can start trying for another (non-furry) member of the family - and since the specialist will need to be a part of my treatment, I'll already be established in their care and they'll be familiar with my medical issues so we can make sure I and the fetus are safe throughout the pregnancy. The best part was that I finally feel like I have started on the path to clear answers and getting my body in shape for a pregnancy, and the doctors I've worked with so far both feel that pregnancy shouldn't be as problematic as I was afraid it would be. It's possible that in a year, we could be ready to start trying, and maybe sooner if treatments go well! This makes me extremely happy, especially combined with the good job news - two areas of my life (career and children) I was really scared wouldn't go my way are now at least making some headway. It's a mixture of excitement and relief to finally feel like I'm moving forward in my life, and now I just have to do my best to not screw it up on my end!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Oh Yeah, I'm a Four-Eyes Now

comic by Sarah Becan - Click to check out her comic site!
So as I was catching up on "I Think You're Saucesome", a super-cute food/autobio comic by Sarah Becan, I stumbled upon this comic, which reminded me that, oh yeah, I have glasses now!

Truth be told, I have technically owned a pair of reading glasses for almost 20 years now, but rarely used them. I needed them when they were prescribed, because my far-sightedness was awesome (20/13 when I was a senior in high school!) but my near-sight was blurry. I mainly used them when I was working on super-tiny craft work, but recently I noticed that they didn't really provided near-sight clarity like they used to. Then I tried on a friend's glasses, and everything became SO CLEAR. OH NO MY EYESIGHT IS DETERIORATING. So I panicked (as I am wont to do, thanks to a mild (undiagnosed) case of hypochondria), bought a Groupon for Stanton Optical, and scheduled an appointment for an eye exam.

Turns out, um, my "deteriorating" eyesight is basically my eyesight becoming good ol' 20/20. Which, in my defense, is weird when you're used to having incredible far-sightedness and reason for panic! Actually, the optician said that I am SLIGHTLY near-sighted, but not enough to be a problem for now.

He did, however, notice that my eyes are painfully sensitive to light; he asked if I have trouble seeing at night, and I said yes - it's all blurry and headlights seem SO bright that I can't keep my eyes open. Since I work on a computer a lot (hahaha, "WORK", right) and keep the screen at minimum brightness also, he prescribed the glasses at the lowest prescription possible and suggested I get anti-glare lenses to help with my brightness issues.

I can't even get GLASSES right. I am a dork to the nth degree.

Me in all my 4-eyed glory. I have no idea what is going on with the dude behind me.

To be fair, though, the glasses HAVE come in handy. I wear them when I'm at the movies, driving at night, in a room with fluorescent lighting (which gives me a headache) or if I'm working-working for a long time on a computer and my head starts to hurt. So they're kind of pointless, but not completely. Movies are so much more enjoyable now that my eyes aren't constantly watering and I'm not squinting at the bright movie screen. Plus, to be honest, I love how the glasses look on me, although my head is crooked and my glasses need to be adjusted to not sit crooked on me.

It's funny, I've posted the above picture on Facebook, and all of NO ONE noticed that I was wearing glasses... including people who have known me for years. So either they look natural on me or no one gives a rat's ass what I put on my face. I'm assuming the former for sanity's sake.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Doggy Motherhood

So as I may have mentioned before, you know, just in passing, that I'm a mother. Well, a dog mother. Well, a dog OWNER (The Hubs hates when I refer to Daisy as "our child", although he seems to have made his peace with it xD).

But lookit that PUNIM, how can you not want to claim that cuteness as your own?

Ooof, those big brown eyes, they kill me.

Anyway, it's really difficult having the world's cutest dog, I assure you. ;D In all seriousness, though, I kind of look at our dog ownership as practice for a kid... which means when I feel like Daisy's not happy that I'm failing as a "mother" (which is probably why The Hubs isn't a fan of my calling her our "child", 'cuz she's a DOG).

To be fair to myself, I think she's a happy dog. She's fed, groomed, and cuddled regularly. But there's things that I worry about, where I feel like I'm "failing" her:
  • When my back's hurting (or when I'm cranky and don't feel like it), she only gets about a 15-minute walk at a time. She goes out about 3 times a day, but I try to make at least one of those times a half-mile loop, which is at least 20+ minutes. The last week or so I haven't because I strained my back and I'm still recovering, but I feel like I should tough it out. I was walking her for a near-mile loop at one point, and I want to get her back to that. 
  • She's not as socialized as she should be, and I feel awful about that. She barks at other dogs when we're out if I don't see the other dog in time and stop her. To our credit, if I see the other dog in advance, we've trained her to not bark by holding her close and saying "No bark" in a firm voice, and she usually doesn't, and when we've taken her to off-leash dog parks, she's been fine for the most part (but we stopped taking her to our local dog park because she got attacked by a big dog). She's also kind of a bully to bigger dogs that we know, and the stress of it has made us stop bringing her to our friends' homes because we don't want her picking on the big gentle dogs. (I think she's just trying to play, but the particular big dogs don't like it).
  • On the weekends, I sometimes forget to feed her for dinner. Breakfast is my habit 'cuz I usually take care of her in the morning and The Hubs handles her in the evening, but weekends get kind of blurred and we'll forget. Just once, and not that often, I swear!
  • When I play on the laptop, she just goes and lays down... and apparently I'm on it too much (well, duh), 'cuz when she hears the laptop close, she jumps up and gets all excited, which makes me feel just AWFUL like I'm on it too much and she's feeling ignored. :(
Of course, all these fears about how I "raise" my dog makes me nervous for the next step, which is children. Kids are even MORE time-consuming and demanding, and if I can't even "raise" our dog right, how much am I going to screw up our children?

The Hubs, who is the sane one in the relationship, assures me that Daisy is fine, she's a happy, healthy dog, and that when we have children we will be good parents to them as well. To be fair, I probably AM overreacting (although she does need longer walks - it's good for her AND for me), and a dog is NOT a child (but she IS definitely a member of the family), and doesn't have quite the same demands. I'm glad we didn't have kids earlier in our lives, because I really don't think I would be as concerned back then as I am now, but who knows? Kids change everything, and I look forward to the challenge; as a friend pointed out to me when I mentioned these concerns, the fact that I'm worried about these things before kids are even around means I'll be a good parent. So I'm going to keep that in mind, and work on improving our walking time and weening myself off the laptop. I'm a good dog mom, but I could be a better dog mom, and becoming a better dog mom could help me become a better MOM mom when the time comes.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

New Recipe Try-Out: Veggie Meat Sauce

While eating at my friend Tim's house, he and his wife Vanessa kept us loaded up with lots of tasty appetizers, including these frozen pizza bites with this AMAZING tomato sauce. Like, I could not get over how good this sauce was, so I begged Vanessa for the recipe and she was happy to oblige.

So I tried it out, and it makes a TON, which is awesome 'cuz it's a very hearty sauce. Lots of meat, lots of vegetables - but if you puree the vegetables, you don't even notice them.

The sauce, mid-simmer!
Since I'm trying to cut out carbs, I tried the sauce with pre-made polenta which I baked.

The polenta, baked
Et voila.
 Overall, it was ok, but it will be AMAZING next time. The recipe, and what I'll fix for next time:

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Timing is everything - especially in cooking.

Y'know, I've been cooking for myself for at least 10 years now.

I've been cooking for more than one person for at least 6.

Yet I still CAN'T FREAKIN' TIME MY MEALS RIGHT!

Ok, I'm exaggerating, I can - some of the time. Maybe even most of the time. Depends on the month.

USUALLY it's a big fat timing failure because I just jump in without having read the recipe directions, just the ingredients. It's a bad habit I developed that I've mostly broken myself of, so tonight, I thought I had it ALL FIGURED OUT, that it was going to work out PERFECTLY. I'd read the recipe directions and knew what I needed to do, and figured out the timing so everything finished at the same time... or so I thought.

Tonight's meal (which is already eaten or I'd post a picture) was oven-"fried" boneless pork chops and a new-to-me recipe, spinach and rice "pie".

photo by Cooking with My Kid!


So, the pork chops I had are THICK - like, over an inch thick. I usually cook them fast at a higher temperature, but I figured they could cook slow at the same temp as the spinach/rice bake and would probably need an hour to cook completely. So, brilliant time-manager that I am, I did the pork chops first, threw them in the oven, then started the recipe, figuring it'd be ready in the 30 minutes I'd allotted to give the pork chops a head start before throwing the spinach/rice bake in the oven while the chops finished cooking.

The rice part of the bake is a rice pilaf box mix that you have to cook before you assemble the "pie". Well, I didn't read the damn directions on the box and LO AND BEHOLD, the particular mix I'd bought took 25 minutes to cook, and needed another 3-8 to "set"! ARGH! By the time my pie was ready to bake, my pork chops had been in there 45 minutes and the pie needed at least 25 minutes MORE to bake.

Not wanting dried-out chops, I took them out to see how close they were to being finished... and they were done. Like, perfectly juicy done. So I took them out, and they sat there while the side dish took its 25 minutes to cook. *facepalm*

The result was actually a quite tasty meal, for all the strum und drang . The Hubs and I like oven-"fried" pork chops, it's a staple, and the spinach/rice bake was actually quite good! The Hubs is kind of finicky, and he had seconds! SUCCESS. My only modifications are to add a little garlic powder and parmesan cheese, and mix salt and pepper in before I bake. It's not BLAND, but a little salt and pepper over the top gave it a little something more, if that makes sense. It probably doesn't, I do that a lot.

The main lesson to take from this is to READ THE DIRECTIONS ON THE DAMN RICE PILAF MIX, and to take the chops off the hot baking pan if they finish before the rest... they dried out a LITTLE bit from waiting around for the stupid side dish. It's not the end of the world, obviously, if anything I wrote about it because even when I break my bad habits (not reading recipe instructions before cooking), I still somehow manage to mess it up. The name of this blog isn't merely to appear clever. ;p

Monday, June 4, 2012

Summer projects 2012

Ok, first off, holy crap HOW IS IT JUNE ALREADY?

It feels like the year is flying by, and I still can't believe how fast it went. Is that just a thing as one gets older, we lose all sense of time? Or do the days just stretch out so long that we lose sight of them until they've passed and accrued into months and years?

Anyway, I'm not here to wax poetic, I'm here to plan projects. Main reason being right now I have very little coming up, job postings are already drying up *sigh*, and I need SOMETHING to distract me other than daily housework. Seriously, I suck as a housewife - I'm getting better, but man oh man it's a chore to make me do chores. Yet when I re-purpose the idea as a "project", it somehow gets done. *shrug* Don't know how or why, but I'm going to run with it.

Last summer my project was decorating our living room, dining area, and bedroom walls. This wasn't too much fancy stuff, just lots of framing free artwork from the internets, personal pictures, and hanging my own canvas/shadowbox collages to dress up the joint. Whatever, it worked, I was able to do it for relatively cheap, and it really added motivation to keeping our home cleaner for both The Hubs and myself, because we finally LIKED where we lived and wanted to keep it looking pretty.

So aside from finding a job, what else can I do to occupy my time so I feel I have worth and don't go insane? Well, I finally figured out what I wanted to work on, and it's actually two things that should be relatively cheap and fun to do as well!

Project #1: Get the pantry/kitchen in order.

You guys, our pantry is a disaster. Like, there are designated shelves for stuff, but it's still packed with crap because when I think of "cleaning", the one area I rarely consider is the pantry. So there's near-empty boxes of stale crackers and spices I used once that we need to get rid of, like, YESTERDAY. Then I would like to find an organization system to get the pantry in order... I'm still debating if the pantry will stay a pantry for goods, or change it over to housing pots/pans/plates, or a mixture of the two. We have a TINY kitchen, where counter space is at a premium, and I have an awful lot of stuff that needs to be stored SOMEWHERE that our tiny cabinets can't quite house. Switching out the pantry and cabinet functions (even if it's just a couple) might be just the way to go... I dunno, still deciding. So here's the plan for dealing with the pantry:
  1. Purge. Throw out the expired/stale/carbs-I-can't-eat-anyway crap out!
  2.  Decide on organization and designate. Ultimately, I want each shelf to have a specific purpose, and the best way to go would be to use the open-the-door-THERE-IT-IS visibility of our big pantry (Which, seriously, was one of the major things that made me go OMG THIS APARTMENT IS PERFECT, it's RARE to have such a large closet/pantry in one bedrooms where I'm from). Once I get it purged, I think it'll be clear to me what I should do with it, and I'm thinking that most likely it'll be turned into more of a storage space for pots/tupperware than for spices/food. Might serve my tiny kitchen space better. I'll update as I work on it!
Project #2: Decorate some more!

Yes, there is still more decorating I want to do. Not a ton, but it's something to do that will make me happy.

The funny thing is that the reason we didn't decorate for so long is that for most of my life, I've moved around. I'm not an army brat, but I am a child of 3 divorces. The longest I've lived somewhere since I was 10 was 3 years... until The Hubs and I moved in together. We've been in our apartment almost 6 years now... but it took almost 5 for me to realize that we should FINALLY decorate! We're hoping to move in the next year or two, but since we'll most likely be here for a little while longer, might as well finish the decorating job.

There's not a lot I want/need to do. Only two projects, really.
  1. The big blank wall in the living room - in my decorating spree last summer, the only thing I could not figure out was what the hell to do with the shared wall between the apartments. It's just this big blank space, and it stymied me. I think I have an idea that would work:
    Click the link to go to the site!
    Obviously my version will not be for a nursery, nor am I decorating with an adorable baby girl. (At least not yet ;D.) But this would be a cute way to fill up a lot of the empty space without overwhelming the living room, I think! Not to mention it's certainly reasonable, cost-wise. I'll use fabrics in browns, soft pinks, and pale yellows with soft gold-painted letters.
  2. The Dining table - I've had this project in my head forever and I've got all the pieces to complete it, but I just haven't gotten around to it. My table is this fabulous 50's-diner style piece that I loooove, but I've been wanting to make it nice so we're not tempted to use it as a storage piece as we tend to do. (Us eat at the table? Whaaaa?). So I want to slap a tablecloth on it (a nice white cotton one, simple) that I might need to make myself 'cuz the dimensions of the table are weird. Then I want to finish my cute table runner that I'm making out of dollar-store dishtowels (seriously, it'll be SUPER-cute and so easy), and a centerpiece out of this awesome thrift store bowl I bought that looks like a lemon cut in half with white paper flowers and fake lemons I found. Since my kitchen/dining room decor is lemon/lime with turquoise and silver accents, it'll look SO CUTE. Plus maybe it'll make us eat at the table more often! :D
I also want to finish overhauling this cute straw-like handbag I have that was given to me by a friend who didn't want it - I meant to finish it last summer, and I got as far as fixing some torn seams. I'd like to add some bright yellow and orange fabric flowers to it to dress it up.

Figuring out my summer projects actually makes me happy and really excited for the summer, which is a nice change from the dread I usually experience. ;) It'll be a good distraction that benefits more than myself. Plus it'll give me something to blog about! Yays all around!

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