Monday, June 11

We Arrived!!

We're here!

Since I have not kept track of who I've managed to keep with telling what in the last couple weeks, this will be a bit of a catch-all / catch-up post.

Last Tuesday, we loaded up the RV and the Tacoma with everything we were bringing with us and hit the road. (As I think I told everyone, given the distance we were traveling, it would have cost about $3,000 to get a uhaul and PODS and the like don't service either where we were coming from or where we were going, so massive downsizing was called for.) Despite being the heaviest they will ever be, both the truck and the RV did beautifully!

My Prince drove so that I could work. (As a test case for the portability of my employment, it went smashingly well.) After 32 hours on the road, we arrived safe and sound at our new home Friday morning. We spent the weekend getting settled in and My Prince started his new job this morning.

I absolutely must make time soon to get some pictures of the area, but since I have a ton to do right now, we're going with just a couple pics of the apartment so I can get this up. We bought a little dining table, which is not only very nice and functional, but also creates a Canine Cavern for puppy napping. (As you can see, both the dogs are nappervising around the spot I had just been set up in. I am a tremendous amount of work, apparently.)

My Prince found somewhere to keep the RV that is literally two minutes away from the apartment, and we are walking distance from really good coffee!! We are spitting distance from his new job, a Super Target (which I didn't know was a thing) and a Lowes, which is convenient.

Do to quirky details of how things work here, we can't get mailbox keys (and therefore mail) for another two days. Other than that, though, we're pretty well settled in and loving it! (Aside from the dining room table, we're working with temporary/improvised furniture for the moment. Not the first time, and it's working fine.)

It has been gloriously warm and sunny here, though the temperature dips overnight, which makes it nice for sleeping.

Arthas has been working hard to show Nenya the ropes of apartment living. (He was an apartment baby once upon a time. She never has been before.) The apartment complex is extremely dog-friendly, which helps. They both slept almost the entire way here. Border collies are sensative, and our stress in the prep for this move and the upheaval at the house definitely took their toll. They're both happy as clams now, though!

Speaking of, the house is on contract!

We're looking at closing in July, which would be phenominal. We are delighted to have found someone who will love it as we did, and so quickly! (Our Realtor has been amazing.)

All future updates on that (and everything else), however, will be posted over at the new blog!

As a nod to our new start and as part of our continuing efforts to streamline and clean up our lives (including the digital aspects), I'm migrating this blog to wordpress. Please look up the new site and bookmark it as this will be the last post here! 

Okay, that's it for now. Lots of other responsibilities to knock out today. Check out the link for more, soon! 

Saturday, June 2

Go Throw Out Twenty Things

You know how people give TED talks and write books and articles about how great it is to "sell all your stuff" and go do something you love? Yeah, turns out that whole "sell all your stuff" part - which only ever gets a passing mention - should have a whole talk/book/article of its own. Because it's a lot of work!!

After a couple weeks of intensively selling off a huge amount of stuff, I can say with great confidence that it is entirely not a fun process. I read a theory somewhere that every sock you lose in the dryer magically turns into a mismatched tupperware lid and manifests in a cabinet somewhere. I'm starting to think that it not only true, but just the tip of the iceberg. We have always tried to be organized and we started seriously paring down what we own like a year and half ago... and yet, when we started clearing out in earnest, things just kept appearing. The more we took out of closets, the more there seemed to be. I honestly have no idea how we acquired so much stuff.

Since I am sure it is not just our house subject to this phenomenon, do yourself a favor and throw out at least twenty things this week. You won't miss them and you'll thank yourself later. Promise.

So, that PSA aside, things here are both amazing and a little surreal. More updates soon!

Thursday, May 17

MoB: Bathroom Project

I regret that I don't have the time to find "before" pictures right now, and also obviously I haven't cleaned anything prior to snapping these pics, but I've been promising and update on the awesome work My Prince has been doing on the Master Bathroom and if it doesn't go up now it never will. So, without further ado, here we go!

LOOK!! Look at this gorgeous tub with pearled marble surround that my madly-talented husband did!
It doesn't show well in this picture, but there's actually a fantastic little ledge on the back for candles
or a wine glass or something, so you can do some proper relaxing!



My Prince took out a (pointless) chunk of wall up at the top of the divider between the tub and shower stall.
Now said shower no longer feels like a cave! There's light, everywhere! Plus, there's a new ledge there that
can be used for storing shampoo bottles, candles, etc.

Look at how big this room is, now! Without the unreasonably (and pointlessly) huge vanity, there is room for a full length
mirror. LED light bulbs make everything gorgeously bright, as does the new wall color. (Which is called Sea Salt Blue.)

This is a certifiably horrible picture of our vanity, but whatever. There are sliding "barn style" doors on either end,
and full-length drawers in between. There's more freaking room in there than some linen closets I've seen! There's
a ton of room and it's beautiful in person. (And when someone other than me takes pics.) Love it!

This Week

Arthas says "this full-time Mommy-sitting
stuff is a lot of work! I need a nap.
In lieu of the ranting and blathering I am tempted to do, I'm going to keep today's check-in short and to-the-point.

The Good: 
  •  Lots of progress made! 
  • Plenty of stuff cleaned out and sold, which is reducing the stress (a little) and making it easier to grapple with what remains.
  • My Prince made great strides on the bathroom (a separate post to come!).
  • Nature has finally figured out it's supposed to be Spring, so everything is green and blossoming, which will be excellent visually when we post/show the house.
  • We met with a Realtor who was super nice, very competent and extremely encouraging. 

The Annoying:

  • Bureaucracy. (I'm on my 3rd try to renew/upgrade my license, which expires on my birthday, which is not quite far enough far enough away to prevent me from having to get another one before we go.) 
  • People who do not/cannot read. (Can I tell you how many replies I've had to my craigslist ads where people paid zero attention to where we are, even though I explicitly stated it? Then they're all astonished and horrified at how far out we are from where they are... like, if you live in Albany, why are you even looking at Oneonta ads if you don't want to drive that far?!)

The Random:

  • There were three bears at the hedgerow last night and turkeys in the yard this morning. I was definitely struck by the fact that that has become normal... and will cease to be very soon! 
  • It is my informed opinion that all lipsticks and lip crayons should come with built-in sealer... because I found the best lip color ever, but I keep leaving burgundy smudges on two furry border collie noses and they are Not Amused. 

Saturday, May 12

Multi-colored LED Christmas Lights?

Anybody got any use for some? They're new within the last couple years. They all work and you won't even have to untangle them!  : )



I think there's 50 bulbs to a set and we've got six sets on offer. Yell if you can use them, because they aren't going with us!

PS - New category tag for all things house/moving related is MoB : Move or Bust!  : )
Possibly the FBI/CIA people assigned to monitor our computers won't appreciate that, but eh... it's fun.  ; p

Thursday, May 10

Cookbooks?

If anyone is interested in any of the following cookbooks (or if you know anyone who would like them), please let me know and I will gladly pass them along to you! All are in like-new condition except as noted otherwise.

Bones  (small tear to spine of dust jacket)
Fat
Olympia Provisions
Eat Your Vegetables
The Paleo Foodie Cookbook (some wear to the front cover)

Please forgive the laziness in the formatting of this post - I'm trying to bang out a bunch of things this morning.

-hugs-
 

Monday, April 30

Counting Down

In case I forgot to tell anyone, my last day at Panera is May 8th. This cafe has been good to me, but I'm tremendously looking forward to moving to content writing full time!  : )

It Is April 30th

Why does my porch look like this?


Monday, April 23

Insane: Book Review

It's taken me fover to rant about review this book, but here we go!

Considering that I wanted to throw this across the room within the first chapter or so, I knew this was going to be a long read. (So did My Prince. I think it amuses him when I want to shake authors silly while reading. Or possibly it's just the associated commentary, since I often fail to keep it confined to my head.)

The author’s heart was clearly in the right place and there were some very solid points…. But they were the just same points, repeated in slightly different ways. Always. Meanwhile, important and related points that seemed like they should have been necessary to round out the discussion and *get* somewhere never made an appearance, or only received a weirdly glancing mention.

Example: the author had two big interrelated points: that individuals with mental health issues (a) do not generally belong in jail/prison (and that jails/prisons are grossly underprepared/inappropriate environments for them), and (b) that America needs comprehensive, properly funded community mental health resources to divert people from the prison system and help them live as healthy, functional members of society. There are ton of examples to support these points – most of which weren’t actually necessary, because the logic was pretty clear after the first couple.

Which brings us to the gaps. Although the author is adamant about institutions, etc. not being something to go back to because of the potential for abuse, nowhere is there an honest discussion about the logistics of the portion of the population dealing with mental illness who cannot live independently. Who simply don’t function at the level necessary to not be in 24/7 care, even with access to community mental health services. Big, government-level studies about mental health, community health care and related best practices get mentioned repeatedly, but only to tell us that nothing they recommended got enacted. Nowhere is any effort made to even briefly explore whether any of those studies suggested the same things on a functional level or what the actual costs of implementation would be compared to what we’re currently doing (expanding prisons). In short, the author definitely wants us to know what we’re doing wrong but doesn’t seem to have been interested in giving us any kind of map for fixing it aside from the broadest of brush strokes… even though a solid body of work on that information already exists in accessible, published form.

Then we have the simply bizarre bits. The author reports, seemingly with no surprise or concern whatsoever, that members of a family or community were appalled and outraged when *they called the police* to deal with someone wielding knives or whom they told the dispatcher had a gun and the cops show up and (gasp) things get violent. The author doesn’t seem to think there’s anything remotely bizarre or unrealistic in people calling the police and somehow (in their own words) expecting them to show up (every time) with a certified, ultra-trained specialist psychologist/psychiatrist at any hour of day or night to reason with/talk down/medically address the person!! Who are these people who think that there are fleets of PhD-level mental health professionals just tagging along in every squad car in America? I get that the family/community needs help, but they don’t call EMTs or crisis centers or pastors or something - they call *the police* … and somehow it is the fault of law enforcement that a person reacts violently to the sight of them and ends up in jail (the only place they usually have to send them) or worse instead of in a hospital? The author can praise training police forces all they want… no law enforcement training is going to correct that kind of misconception and unreasonable expectations (and therefore decisions not grounded in reality) on the other side of the coin!! This is just one example of the kinds of things that popped up that made it very clear that author’s only interest in this subject was through a narrow lens.

Finally, it was absurdly frustrating that the author said not a single peep about the underlying causes of the rising numbers of people with mental illness and/or emotional disorders… again, even though there’s a ton of documentation on it. I'm sure I don't have to tell you that food was one of the first places my brain went. If you really want people to stop unnecesarily ending up in jail, STOP FEEDING PEOPLE CRAP. If you want to reduce mental illness rates, STOP STUFFING FOOD FULL OF FAKE SUGARS AND TOXIC COLORS AND INDUCING IT. Ugh. It just kills me that no one even wants to mention the basic causes for so much that is wrong. We'd rather argue about which ineffectual methods of cleaning the mess (after everyone has suffered so badly) make us look better and more progessive. 

Anywho, don't read this book. Read Anatomy of Violence or The Crazymakers instead. Please and thank you.

Saturday, April 21

Reminder: May Holidays

If you're like me, you're blinking at your calendar this weekend a little startled to find that it's nearly May! If so, may I offer a reminder that there are a whole handful of holidays in May that might be worth remembering and celebrating?

May 3rd - Teacher Appreciation Day
May 4th - Star Wars Day
May 13th - Mother's Day
May 20th - Armed Forces Day
May 25th - Geek Pride Day
May 28th - Memorial Day

Everybody's schedules fill up fast as we approach the end of the academic year and (hopefully!) the advent of summer, so consider putting it on your to-do list for the coming week to reach out to friends or family you'd like to celebrate with, or to throw any specialty items you'd like for celebratory meals on your shopping list. Winter has been long and rough this year - make time to give your mental/emotional health a boost by celebrating something good!

Thursday, April 19

Syruping

Please excuse the stove... I hadn't cleaned
up yet when I took the picture.
Syruping this year has been odd. Normally, one of two things happen. Either we have a fairly short, intense season or weather shoots directly from hard frozen winter to too-warm spring-that-wants-to-be-summer and we essentially skip syruping weather altogether. This year, we had all the buckets pretty early (end of February, beginning of March?) because predications said that we'd get syruping weather soon.

Only we didn't. Every time we checked the weather after that, they'd dropped the predictions for the following week by another 10 degrees. We proceded to get several more ugly snow storms usually with a few days of somewhat syruping-friendly weather in between. And it just stayed that way - back and forth - for weeks. We'd go days at a time with zero flow, and then spend a few days slogging through three feet of snow to get to the trees out back to collect sap and running two giant pots on propane burners in the garage. Some of the storms were so windy and awful that they actually tore spiles out of the trees!

It's now officially the middle of April and the forecasts are still all over the place and STILL include snow for the foreseeable future. That said, we made the command decision to be done for the year. The pot in the picture was the last batch of the season. We got a couple gallons and we're grateful for that, but we've reached the point at which diminishing returns no longer justify continued effort. At this point, I just hope the weather settles into something reasonable before the apple trees start to blossom - I'd hate to lose another apple crop! 

Tuesday, April 17

The Hall Bathroom

Generally speaking, March is not a great month around here. It tends to be associated with stir-craziness and an antsy impatience to be working on the year's house/property projects.

(Example: several years ago, we went to Lowes for closet doors and came home with lovely bamboo flooring. We then proceded to stay up ludicrously late ripping out the carpet in our bedroom and replacing it with the aforementioned flooring... and then still had to go back to Lowes for the closet doors we had intended to buy the first time around.)

This year, we had enough else going on that we mostly avoided the usual March impulse-project. We did do a bunch of online searching and shopping for a project that's been on the list, though - replacing the floor in the bathrooms. It's pretty obvious that when the house was built the previous owners just grabbed whatever flooring was cheap and available and used it, because there wasn't any sort of rhyme, reason or taste involved. The hall bathroom has been painted since I think the first year we moved in, and we've done little bits and pieces in the intervening time - replaced the showerhead, put in a window, painted the vanity, cleaned up the trim, replaced the mirror.

The old floor (and my terrible picture-taking skills).
Recently, while I was elbow deep in writing for work, My Prince replaced the floor. My photos don't do it justice (they never do), but it's lovely! It's greyish slate kind of shade and looks very clean and soothing with the blue walls. The new trim is specially designed for bathrooms, so it's durable and moisture resistant which is awesome!

The old trim.
While he was at it, My Prince did me a huge favor and put some peel-and-stick tile down inside the bathroom vanity cabinet. (I didn't take a picture because I couldn't make the lighting work.) This sounds dumb, but it makes a huge difference! Because of the way the vanity is constructed and the way the lighting is, even when the inside of the cabinet was scrubbed and clean it still didn't ever really *look* clean. With the new, light-colored tile it's now brighter, quicker to clean and actually looks clean! Small change, big improvement!




Beautiful new floor and new trim!!      

Monday, April 16

Indestructable



This is our *third* guaranteed indestructible splitting maul.

Much like our border collies, we apparently do not respect that "indestructible" means you're not supposed to be able to break something. *sigh*

Thankfully, my husband is talented and was able to replace the handle but I seriously think there's a design flaw somewhere. How many centuries have people been chopping/splitting wood? And we don't have truly indestructible tools for the purpose yet? Somebody should get on that.

In the meantime, if it wanted to STOP BEING COLD so that we didn't NEED to keep chopping/burning firewood, I'd be extremely on board.

Sunday, April 15

That's Not How It Works

That's not how it works - that's not how any of this works!
Apparently, the Governor of Kentucky is suffering from a serious misunderstanding of the American education system and made the mistake of verbalizing some of his misunderstandings this past week. The short version is that teachers in the state were protesting for a serious increase in funding for education. As a result, many schools were closed for a day. The Governor took this as an opportunity to get in front of some cameras and blame teachers for every child that was assaulted, exposed to drugs or in any other way harmed during the time he or she would otherwise have been in school that day.

I'm honestly not sure how I'd go about responding to the subject if I were there in person. I mean, there's so many different directions from which to approach that:

1. Schools should be safe for kids, but we don't send them there for the purpose of keeping them safe.

2. It is a PARENT'S job to ensure a safe home and social life for his or her child. Yes, teachers and schools need to protect kids while they are engaged in mandatory or extra-curricular school time, but once they leave they are the responsibility of their families. Period.

3. Students don't attend school on weekends, so whatever harm you think they're coming to on a day from school they're already exposed to... every week. Is that somehow the school's fault, too?

4. If you actually believe that schools are desperately needed safe havens for students, the logical response is not to gripe about them wanting more money - it's to throw buckets of money at them so that they are equipped to actually serve that function.

5. If you think kids are at that much risk every minute they're not at school, shouldn't your public policies and budget reflect that? Oodles of money to law enforcement, child protective services, etc? Seriously, it's a bad plan to open your mouth about ideas that made you look EVEN WORSE at your job than you already do.

All I can say is that I sincerely hope the people of Kentucky pick a different Governor when this idiot's term is up!!

Saturday, April 14

Sometimes People Scare Me

This week has been.... interesting. (More on some of the reasons why in upcoming posts.) One recurring theme was the presence of absolutely zombiefied customers at work. More than once I had customers whose expressions were so vacant, and who had such a hard time following basic questions (or who didn't seem to realize you were talking to them at all), that they could have been walk-ons in a zombie film exactly as they were, no prep required.

Perhaps the most representative of this trend were the two (older) women who wandered in, stared vaguely at the menu a while, and then asked one of the other cashiers, "is this related to Panera?"

What?!

How do you get all the way out of your house, into a vehicle, drive somewhere, get past all the giant (brightly colored) signage and not know where you are? Why would you do into a restaurant (or anywhere?) not knowing what it was? It is terrifying to think that people that unaware of themselves and their surroundings might have been driving!!

Anyway, that's just one example, but suffice it to say I'm extremely relived to be at home this weekend cranking through my to-do list instead of facing that for eight hours today.


Tuesday, April 3

Nightwish


In the middle of March, we discovered that (due to a change of plans) one of our favorite bands was coming to Albany! Nightwish is a symphonic metal band from Finland and I'd always pretty much figured we'd have to go at least as far as the Ocean (there's a 20,000 Tons of Metal cruise!) to catch them. So when My Prince found out they were going to be playing locally, he snagged us some tickets. (Am I spoiled, or what?)

Neither of us had ever been to The Egg, as the performance venue in Albany is called, but it was interesting. (Lots of scantily clad little kids running around for a dance competition on the lower floor... seriously, children, it was March! You need more clothes! I don't care what you're dancing too!) Everyone was joking in line about how none of us knew there were any other European metal fans in the Capital Region, which was amusing. Then we got inside...

Our tickets were front row.  Just off center. It was phenominal. Best. Concert. Ever.The energy levels were so high you couldn't help but get up and dance. (I may or may not have been drooling over the lead singer's leggings, too. So cool.) It was a pretty small theater, relatively speaking and the band was extremely interactive with the crowd. At the end of the concert, Troy (the piper) gave Eric a fist bump!! I won't go on as I won't manage to do it justice, but it was a fantastic experience and all the better for being unexpected.

Monday, April 2

Best Chocolate Mousse Ever

Because I've had a couple people ask me for it recently, I wanted to repost my favorite chocolate mousse recipe. It's delectable, easy, gluten free and can be adapted to fit all kinds of other dietary needs. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 31

Happy Easter!


Saw this on tumblr and had to share because it made me laugh really hard.  : )

Wednesday, March 28

Work Quote of the Day

Submitted via the online comment system:

"Although my diet is strictly limited, I do love that I am allowed to eat at your restaurant and I love my bear claws!"

Me: ...

Me: "What *exactly* are you strictly limiting in your diet if you're still eating bear claws?! Because it's obviously not sugar, salt, wheat/gluten, fat, sugar, preservatives, major allergens.... Seriously, I'm curious. What ARE you limiting? Vegetables?!

(sigh)

Sunday, March 18

Fedora!

My Prince has long had his eye on a proper fedora. He even knew where he wanted it to come from - The Custom Hatter, who does everything by hand on antique forms using vintage tools to create one-of-a-kind masterpieces fitted to the owner's head. But he didn't want to buy one for himself, because it seemed indulgent. So, for his birthday last year, I got him one. (Sort of. He had to do some of the ordering part himself because of sizing and preferences and such, but you get the idea.)

We had hoped it would arrive before his trip this past winter, but no such luck. The Hatter had a huge long list of orders and it wasn't done until January! That said, it finally arrived and it was worth every penny and every minute of waiting. It's modeled on the one Indiana Jones wore in Raiders of the Lost Arc. (Fun fact - Harrison Ford wore a different fedora in every Indy movie and they were all slightly different!)


Not only does my Prince look good in it, but Arthas rocks it pretty well, too.  : )

Saturday, March 17

March (So Far) in Pictures

Syruping - Bad photo, I know. Also, we've doubled this set up, running two burners... except that after our first week of flow it hard froze and there has been endless snow. So all our buckets, pots, burners and other infrastructure remain on hold, waiting for above freezing temperatures to return and allow us to finish out this year's syruping season.  

Freaking snow!! We have had three nor'easters in just over as many weeks, and there's another on the books for next week. The snow just keeps coming and piling up and it's beyond ridiculous already. Frisbee is lost and gone until probably July at this rate, buried under all the mess somewhere. I'm officially tired of plowing/shoveling more than once per day and still having it look like I never did anything. Eternally grateful that my husband bought us both take-no-prisoners snow tires!!




While I've been pouring every ounce of energy I've got (after dealing with snow) into mastering my writing job and keeping up with the workload, my Prince has been cranking out absolutely amazing projects! Within days of getting home in January he was grinding away at the basement insulation project. I was (and remain) flabbergasted at how fast he got studs up, insulation and sheeting in, drywall installed, mudding done, and then the whole wall (the entire length of the house!) primed and painted. The photo above is the primed version. Because I'm in a hurry and not interested in scrouging up a photo of the finished product, imagine it a bright, spotless white! It makes the entire space look huge and gorgeous. I'm glad one of us is getting things done these days!!

Thursday, March 8

Happy International Women's Day!

For all that I love geek holidays, I tend to stay away from a lot of other 'unofficial' holidays because they so often get hijacked by groups, causes and politically correct nonsense that they end up being entirely unappealing. But today is International Women's Day and I cannot help but take it as a reminder to say THANK YOU.

Thank you to all the women in my life who have been a blessing to me. Who modeled how to be the kind of women who, as the saying goes, make the devil wince and say "oh, crap, she's up!" when their feet hit the floor in the morning. Who worked - and still work - their tails off for the goals that are meaningful to them and then don't apologize when the world doesn't get it. Thank you to the friends who have taught me the beauty of female friendships, even in the midst of an age and culture in which women are so often brutally awful to one another.

There are a lot of days when being a woman is a tough, tall order. So many days where it is so easy to doubt and feel inadequate. But if you're a woman and reading this, you've blessed me and I am SO thankful for you. Every day. Even - maybe especially - when I don't have time or the extra brain power to remember to tell you how much.

((hugs))

Tuesday, February 27

Pet Food PSA: Blue Buffalo

Please be aware (and make your friends with dogs aware!) that Blue Buffalo brand pet food is being bought out by General Mills. Obviously, given what General Mills considers appropriate to put in people 'food', the future of the Blue Buffalo brand is highly suspect. 

If you're using this brand or know someone who is, it's important that you watch both the ingredient list on the packaging and your pet's tolerance of the food in the months to come. Sick furries aren't fun... and neither is paying clean, brand-name prices for product that's creeping quietly downhill and below your standards! Pass it on. Thanks!

Monday, February 26

Writing Job Update

I have officially been doing my new writing job for just over a month now, and it's finally starting to come under control. (For blogging purposes, I've created the tag "WFHW" to stand for Work From Home Writing and to use when referencing this job in the future.)

The first couple weeks were really rough. The style of writing is extremely different than what I did when grant writing, and I honestly didn't find the on-boarding materials I was given all that helpful. They were professionally done, but obviously by people who didn't realize just how much information they had in their heads that they were taking for granted that wouldn't be obvious to other people who were trained/experienced in different standard practices. As such, in addition to needing to work out a new schedule to balance both my jobs and everything else that has to get done as just part of daily life, I also found myself redoing pieces I'd written when they sent them back with new information about formatting or other requirements. (Which was crazy annoying, given that I really wanted to do things well and efficiently, and would have the first time around if I'd had all the info I needed! I may or may not have spit out half my lexicon of sci-fi swear words in consistent torrents for a couple weeks straight.) As a result, it took me three weeks to get to the point where everything was both done and done right by the deadline provided. (Just a little bit of stress, there....)

I have finally (*fingers crossed*) reached the point where I'm hitting my stride. I'm down to four days a week at my other job (off on Mondays), which gives me enough time to get all of my writing done and sleep more than three hours a night, which is amazing. (And healthy.) I've made checklists for myself that incorporate all the initial instructions and additional feedback I've gotten, which is going a vastly long way toward making sure everything is right the first time, now. I've also dialed in my back-of-house systems in terms of tracking where I am on assignments during the week, keeping my digital files organized, and logging my work turned in for accounting purposes. Now that I'm not eternally frustrated with my writing supervisor for sending things back to me to be redone over things I never had reason to know were outside their specs, I find him a pleasant human being and am happy to see his emails in my inbox. It's a little discouraging to have to dump so much of my monthly writing paychecks in a "taxes" account (because we're going to get raked over the coals again next year, too), but all things considered I'm delighted and relieved to be where I am on this front right now.

I love putting fewer miles on my truck every week. I love being home with my babies (and sometimes My Prince) one extra day a week. I love the peace of mind that comes with knowing I'm no longer losing my writing credentials by not using them. I love the relief of knowing that I can afford to take days off later in the year to travel because I'll still have enough income, and the confidence that if opportunities knock it won't be my job situation keeping us from jumping on them.

Serendipitously, I received a fantastic standing desk as part one of the review programs I participate in, so I've got my own little writing command-and-control center happening where everything is organized. As a bonus, it's near a window, so I get sunlight (when there's any to be had, of course) and when it's nice out I'll get fresh air! My Prince has been amazing - adaptive, supportive, and forgiving when the learning curve ate me alive and I wasn't much company. There are still details to be worked through and I'm sure more bumps in the road as seasons change and other aspects of our schedules with them, but for now I'm pleased to report that I've found a good place with the WFHW and the whole thing is finally doing really good things for my mental, emotional and physical health!

Sunday, February 25

100 Days of Productivity Update & Reboot

One of my 100 DoP bullet journal pages.
One of my priorities for this weekend was to get a handle on my 100 Days of Productivity Project and make some decisions. Until the middle of January or so, I'd been doing a really good job of being consistent with it and not too badly with tracking it (as you can see from one of the admittedly sloppy pages out of my bullet journal at right).

But here's the thing: it worked

As in, way-surpassed-my-expectations kind of worked. I got my new nutrition blog live and landed the writing job I so desperately wanted, both before I'd reached the halfway mark of the project!

Then said writing job took over my life.

Progress tracking got muddy and haphazard at that point. Did I give myself credit for writing for my writing job because, technically, making it through the learning curve was part of keeping the job and therefore fell under the auspices of the project? Did I give myself permission to give up on tracking for a while because surviving the learning curve was an all-consuming goal? Should I end the project, because technically the original goals had been met? Should I replace it with a different one (because I've totally got some other areas of life I'd like to see the same progress in!!!)?

After due consideration, I've decided the best way to go is a "reboot". I effectively stopped tracking my progress at Day 44 because I'd reached the point where the only thing I was accomplishing was writing more for work. The Palimpsest blog essentially hasn't been touched since I launched it, and I've been stressing over it because there have been a bunch of times lately people have asked me for things and all I could think about was that (happy as I am to share knowledge and resources) it was a huge waste of time, energy and effort to be getting things pulled together and handed out individually instead of taking extra time to just do it right and get it up on the blog so that every time people ask me in the future for that same information I can just point them to the post and not be redoing the same work. I've also been very aware that, in theory, now that I've finally reached a bit of a stabilizing point with the writing (more on that in another post), if I can get caught up on the blog then I should be able to pretty feasbibly keep up going forward.

Ergo, a reboot. Starting today, I'm finishing out the remaining 56 days in my original 100 DoP project with the focus solely on the Palimpsest blog. New goals:
  • Write, format and post back-dated blogs (one per week) from the starter post that's up there until I'm up to date.
  • Copy out any content I want from the Nutritional Mischief blog and formally shut it down. 
  • Refine all of the behind-the-scenes spreadsheets I'm using to organize the blog to set myself up for success going forward. 
  • Figure out which kind of blogging calendar set up works best for me, and get it implemented.
  • Get a handful of posts rough drafted to front-load myself to stay on track as I continue to refine my new schedule/time management.
If I follow through, I should start April in a really good place!

I've also decided that I really love this project format, which is something I definitely didn't expect. (I'm already planning my next 100 DoP project!) I strongly recommend giving it a try if you have any giant, overwhelming or lingering projects hanging over your head.

Finally, in light of my new goals, I am extra interested in suggestions of things that people want to see show up on the blog, what food-related frustrations you're grappling with, etc. It might take me a while to feature them, but I've got a nice, organized master list going and I'd love to have them for reference!

Saturday, February 24

March Holidays

It's a weekend!

This past week was long around here. There was lots going on, but the days somehow seemed to drag anyway. (The evenings went by fast, though, once we were home and trying to get things done!) So we're making a concerted effort to get caught up and ready - not only for next week, but for March which is shockingly just a handful of days away.

March always feels like one of those months that is endless as the weather wavers between snow storms and mud, and you're ready for Spring and still have forever to wait. So I forget that there actually several holidays in there. In case you forget, too, here's a reminder:
  • International Women's Day - March 8th
  • Daylight Savings - March 11th
  • St. Patrick's Day - March 17th 
  • Spring Begins (officially, actual weather not withstanding) - March 20th
  • Tolkien Day (eat like a Hobbit!) - March 25th
  • Good Friday - March 30th
  • Easter - April 1st (not technically in March, but worth being aware of b/c it's so early in April this year!) 

(Note: I don't generally celebrate 'political' holidays like Women's Day, but I do think sometimes they're good reminders to send a hug and a thank you to people in our lives it's otherwise too easy to forget to show appreciation for, so I've included it here in case it benefits you the same.)

May you have a productive and restful weekend, and head into next week and next month recharged!!

Tuesday, February 20

Progress!

Just a quick note to say I'm celebrating tonight (mentally, mostly... it's a 'school night' and much too late to be drinking for real) because I wrote 10,848 words for work in the last 6 days. And, more importantly, for the first time since I started this job, I didn't sneak everything in under the deadline... it's all turned in the day before it was due and I haven't had any of it sent back to me for revisions yet!

That probably doesn't sound like much, but the learning curve has been steep and it's a lot to celebrate from where I'm sitting.

Hopefully it means I've turned a corner and will actually be in a position to do a better job of navigating and balancing time in the next couple weeks. I'd really like to get some posts written and up here bragging on how amazing My Prince has been while I've been slogging through word counts. The amount of things he's gotten done (and how amazing it all looks!) is jaw-dropping. So, hopefully soon... in the meantime, celebrating! 

Wednesday, February 14

Have A Lovely Vocabulary Word

Since I'm not allowed to use lovely, higher-end vocabulary words in my professional writing right now (and it's painful), I thought I'd start sharing them here (where I know people will be articulate enough to appreciate them) as I come across them. Today's word is parvenous.

Parvenous:
(n) person of obscure origin who has gained wealth, influence of celebrity
(adj) having recently achieved or associated with someone who has recently achieved
                    

Monday, February 12

How to Support an Espresso Addiction, Cleanly and Cheaply

Note: I wrote this in December, but somehow it got lost and never posted. Figured I'd post it now, since it's all still true and worth the signal boost.

I belong to a couple free-stuff-in-exhange-for-a-review programs, and just after Thanksgiving one of the best toys ever fell in my lap that way: a Nespresso Essenza Mini Espresso Machine with Aeroccino 3.

It's like a Keurig for espresso... and it's amazing.

It takes up almost no space, is embarassingly easy to clean, and you can go from plugging it in to having your latte in about two minutes. Maybe three. (No exaggeration.)

Depending on how/where you buy them (I go through Amazon), the pods are about $1 each. The aeroccino will beautifully froth any kind of milk you want - regular, almond, coconut, etc. (I've tested it.) From what I've looked up so far, there isn't even any crap in there - even with the flavored espresso shots! (Vanilla, caramel, etc.)

Considering that a (not very good) latte out anywhere costs you upwards of four or five dollars (not including the time and gas it took you to go get it) and usually (sometimes substantially) longer than three minutes, I was a little floored to find that we have been able to consistently make excellent lattes for less than $2 each (including the honey we sweeten them with and the milk of our choice).

Obviously, this isn't going to be something everyone needs. But there are so many overcomplicated, hard-to-use, and disappointing home espresso/coffee machines on the market that I felt the need to give this one kudos and a signal boost. If you know anyone looking for this sort of thing, this is absolutely the one to go with!!

Sunday, February 11

Reminder: Tomorrow is National Clean Out Your Computer Day

Did you know tomorrow is National Clean Out Your Computer Day?

Even if you can't make time for it tomorrow it's worth considering scheduling a little time to tidy up your digital life this week (or month)?

Both of us over here have done bits of pieces of this lately for different reasons, so we've had it on the brain anyway. I can affirm what most of us already know: it's far easier to let yourself do this in small increments as you have time than to have to slog through it in a bigger chunk when you're trying to actually get something else accomplished. Save yourself time and headaches!  You'll be glad you did, later.

In addition to the obvious (like cleaning up your desktop icons), think about whether you can/should catch up on some of the following, too:
  • Cleaning out photos, notes, contact list, texts and apps on your phone.
  • Updating your login/password backup list.
  • Reviewing your Pinterest boards, getting rid of things you no longer want/use.
  • Reviewing and updating any wish lists you keep online. 
  • Clearing out your email. 
  • Backing up key files (using whatever method you like best).
  • Properly titling and filing digital photos. (This would be a great time to make the effort to get your favorites printed, or to share a happy memory with a friend!)
  • Deleting or canceling your accounts on websites you no longer use. 
  • Ask yourself what you should have digitized and don't! (E.g. backup copies of important legal documents)
  • Gather old phones, cords, etc. and get them out of the house - donate them to one of the many charities that collect them, or find out where they can be recycled.
I know it looks like a long list and there's certainly no reason to feel like you need to sit down and do it all at once. But digital clutter is still clutter, and it still costs us time and energy throughout the year (usually when we can least afford it). Give the rest of your year a boost by getting your digital house in order this month (while it's too cold and wet to get much done outside anyway)!

Saturday, January 20

That Word... I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means

Buckets of Apples. A form of fruit... which contains carbs.
At some point, you are going to see a post (or a series of posts) on the Palimpsest blog about carbs. This (entirely true, non-embellished) story of an encounter I had at work yesterday exemplifies the reason why. Just so you know.

Background: we had had a crazy morning at work, full of drama. It was just shy of lunch time and I'd about maxed out my 'peopling' quota for the day. This lady came in with her son. She was wearing giant, dark sunglasses, which she made no attempt to remove, even though she clearly couldn't see anything with them on inside because she kept angling her head in weird directions to look over and around them. I took the son's order, and then politely asked what I can get for the lady. The conversation followed like this:

Customer: Do you have those yogurt parfaits?

[Editorial note: parfaits contain greek yogurt, honey, granola, strawberries and blueberries.] 

Me: Just the one right here. [In the ice bin on the counter, which she'd have been able to see if she took off her glasses.]

Customer: Oh, I can wait while you make more.

Me: I'm sorry, that's not something we can do right now. We have none of the product prepped and no one available to do it. Can I get you something else?

Customer: Oh, you're sure you can't make any?

Me: No, I'm sorry, we really can't. We have this one, but we just can't get any others made right now.

[Editoral note: I wasn't lying. We had no prep people available, both managers were up to their eyeballs in other things, I was the only one in bakery, and there really wasn't anything even slightly prepped.]

Customer: Well, do you have anything else with fruit in it?

Me: Sure, we have these fruit cups [right in the ice bin next to the parfait, which, as mentioned above, she apparently couldn't see], or steel cut oatmeal with fruit in it.

[We talk about the oatmeal options and she decides to go with the one containing strawberries. I ring her out, she walks away. Two minutes later, as they're finishing up her order and I'm trying to stock, she reappears.]

Me: Did we forget something?

Customer: Is it too late to cancel that oatmeal? I'd rather have the fruit cup instead.

Me: Sure. No problem. Here's the fruit cup, let me grab you some silverware. [Tells the line to nix the already-made oatmeal and gets the customer squared away.]

Customer: Thanks. I just really wanted something with no carbs, you know?

Me: Nods. Smiles. Valiantly avoids screaming, weeping, and shaking anyone.

NO CARBS...!!!

Because clearly the granola-and-honey-containing parfait had no carbs (47g, plus 33g of sugar!). Nor did the fruit cup (17g plus 12g of sugar).

And fruit, the one component she focused on all along, as a rule contains almost no protein or fat... which means by default is has to be almost entirely carbs/sugar and water!!

I seriously spent the rest of the shift scratching my head, trying to figure out where she could have gotten the idea that she needed to not eat carbs... but also somehow managed to come away with absolutely no comprehension at all what carbs are, or what kinds of foods they're in. 

Some days, I don't even know, you guys...

Sunday, January 14

Welcome to the Family!

We have a new furry niece! Her name is Cassie Lu and she's approximately three years old. (It's always a bit of a guess with rescues.) She is, I'm told, tiny, adorable and shy.

Our babies sent her a squishy ball in welcome and can't wait to meet her!

(They also expressed their approval that Uncle Chris is now properly supervised again... humans without furry supervison are dangerous, you know!)

Saturday, January 13

100 Days of Productivity Update and Blog Launch!!


Way back in November I mentioned the idea of doing a 100 Days of Productivity experiment. Although it took longer than I'd hoped to settle on my plan for the project, I did eventually get started – I'm now 41 days in! Since I've had a couple people ask, here's what it has ended up looking like so far:

  1. A Two Pronged Goal

    As denoted in a recent post, the first half of the goal was to get a part-time telecommute writing job. The second half was to launch a sustainably structured nutrition/healthy lifestyle blog to replace the long-lapsed Nutritional Mischief site. Together, I determined, these should:
      (a) Establish a flexible, scalable, and portable income stream to improve financial opportunities now and allow for a smooth transition later;
      (b) Resolve the problem of not having content that is legally mine to share with potential employers;
      (c) Document ongoing engagement/competency in the writing and nutrition sectors, demonstrating that my skills/credentials remain current, and keeping the line on future employment opportunities in both areas open; and
      (d) In the case of the nutrition blog, establish a constructive outlet for my nutrition geekery, which is good for my soul.

  2. Simple Structure

    Given that there were at lot of variables and some erratic scheduling over the chosen 100 Days, I decided to make things as simple as possible. Anything that got me functionally closer to achieving my stated goals counted, regardless of the time commitment or complexity. Thus, on days when time/energy were at a premium, my 'one thing' was sometimes stupidly simple: searching for/downloading a checklist, reviewing and deleting or properly filling a previously-bookmarked resource I'd thought might help, or searching the job sites and bookmarking anything new that seemed fit to apply for. When I had more time/energy, I tackled bigger things: completing job applications, slogging my way through website formatting challenges, or writing (another) legally acceptable disclaimer. Admittedly, some days it didn't feel like I'd achieved much, but it was amazing at the end of every week to see just how much progress I'd actually made!

    (Confession in case anyone else tries this: I also gave myself some grace. If there was a day where I simply couldn't get anything done, I just made it up later and still gave myself credit rather than consider the whole thing blown. So far it's worked out great and kept things positive and effective!)

  3. Learning From Previous Mistakes (aka Start At The Beginning, But Scale Back)

    I did a lot of reflecting through this process and realized that one of the reasons Nutritional Mischief failed was that I tried to do too much (often with too fuzzy an idea of the proper scope of things) and got overwhelmed. I also didn't front-load myself with the right systems, so the more content I made the more I felt like I was digging myself into a hole, which only made the anxiety worse and just created a big, nasty feedback loop. I learned from my mistakes: this time, I chose to establish my nutrition blog as only a blog, without any other business components. I also (thanks to this project) gave myself ample time at the get-go to deal with boring, stressful legal crap like proper disclaimers, figuring out the actual Official Rules for things like using images and linking to other people's material, and constructing behind-the-scenes spreadsheets to manage my content and prevent those scattered and digging-a-hole feelings.
  4. Progress!
    After posting about how I'd gotten a writing job, I heard back from two more places I'd applied. I'm still working through the on-boarding process with the first job, and examining the next steps in the application process for the other two, but I'm hopeful that by the start of February (once they've all gotten back to me again, etc.) I'll have that end of things sorted out and functionally up and running!

    The other half of the project, I am delighted to announce, is also finally coming to fruition! 

    My new site Palimpsest Living is now live!! 

     Current plan is to post once a week. It's not a lot but, given the new priorities, quality and consistency are FAR more important than quantity. It's also an extremely sustainable posting plan, which is a big deal right now, too.

  5. Going Forward

    Crazy as it seems, I'm not quite halfway through this experiment so there's plenty still to come! I expect a bunch of my remaining days will be eaten up by sorting out the new job stuff, but I'm also planning to dedicate time to getting a bunch of drafts written for PL, to prime the pump for the weekly posting schedule. Establishing new habits, tracking systems, etc. to manage the new workload and the chances it makes to how other things run will also play in there somewhere. In the meantime, I'm delighted to have more than I'd expected to show for my experiment at this point and so excited to have PL finally launched!!

    As a final note, I am taking 'requests' and suggestions for PL! If there's anything you'd like to see show up on there topic-wise, weird questions or comments you've heard from friends/coworkers, or common misconceptions that drive you nuts, please feel free to send them to me! I'll add them to my 'maybe write about this' list! (I've already got some doozies from work to get me started!!)





Friday, January 12

Free Online Courses

I was talking to a friend at work recently about having read about free online courses put together and hosted by some really big names in academia and industry. I promised to get her a list and, once I started assembling it, thought maybe I'd post it here in case anyone else can benefit.

Although I have not personally had the opportunity to try any of these yet, they've been on my radar for a while. Some of them are accredited, many are not. Some run on pre-scheduled timelines (usually because they incorporate a social learning component), others are entirely self-paced.

Whether you're trying to expand your skill sets for career purposes, hoping to keep your brain limber, or just looking for something engaging to help make the dark days of winter go by faster, it looks like there's something for everybody in here!

Duolingo - learn another language!

Canvas Network - "Open, online courses from colleges, universities and organizations worldwide."

JTDigital - "technical skills for the digital world"  (Psst... this includes a course on 'ethical hacking!' How fun does that sound?!)

Open Culture- "1,300 free online courses"

Open2Study

Stanford University

edX - free courses from Harvard, MIT, RIT, Wharton and more on here!

(PS - If you get a chance to try any of these, please let me know what you think!!)

Thursday, January 11

Vacation Planner Printable

I don't know if this is of interest to anyone else (or just crazy ISTJs like me), but Scattered Squirrel has a couple great vacation planning printables.

It's a neat, organized (free!) way to document and track when you're leaving, when you're arriving (and how you're getting there!), and any events/activities you've already booked or want to make sure you see. There's also a little weekly grid for visual learners like me who want to see what it all looks like in context. Although it's not applicable to us, I also feel like it would be a great way to hand off critical information to a someone watching your house/pets/kids while you're gone.

So if you, too, are looking ahead to what's to come this year and find your plans include travel, check it out!

Wednesday, January 10

Don't Be Busy


I was on Pinterest the other day, just swinging through to pick up a link I'd saved there, when this graphic/phrase caught my eye and lodged a little in my brain. I wanted to share it here because it struck me as a personal challenge. (And maybe you'll know someone else who needs to be challenged like this?)

I am absolutely certain there's going to be a LOT going on this year. (I've got the calendar and bullet journal lists to prove it!) But I want to stop answering "good, but busy!" every time someone asks me how I've been, or starting emails by apologizing for taking so long to reply because things have been so busy. Days can be full and deadlines can be tight, and it's okay to be focused on being productive - because there is so much I want and need to do.

But 'busy' is as much an emotion as an adjective - it speaks of haste and preoccupation and sometimes, unfortunately, doing things for the sake of doing them or simply by default. That's not what I want for my 2018. We've put a lot of work into paring down our stuff - this year I want to pare down the intangibles. The bad habits, the inefficiencies, the unfounded assumptions, the hold-overs from previous stages of life that aren't serving me any more. I want to pay attention to what I'm doing and to make better choices - even if its hard, or if it takes a bunch of tries to figure out what those better choices look like.

'Busy' won't get me there.

So if you hear me saying I'm busy this year, will you call me on it? Thanks!

Tuesday, January 9

Celebrate With Me?

It's not a secret that our long term goal is to leave New York State. (Isn't everyone's, honestly?) Nor have we been anything less than bubbly about our Errant Venturing.

One of the first things that always, always comes to mind when we talk about long term plans and opportunities is how not portable my job is. Although I can usually get days off without too much trouble, I don't have sick time, vacation time, or anything else - all days off are unpaid. Moreover, while I could technically put in for a transfer to a different cafe when we're someday ready to move, there is no guarantee wherever we go next will even have one, let alone have a good one that needs someone in the hours I'd be available to work.

I have plenty of credentials and experience to do other - far more flexible and portable - things. But, as I've been increasingly aware the last few months, the longer I go without some kind of current employent in those fields, the less up-to-date and reliable my skills look to potential employers. To make matters worse, about 95% of what I did in the grant writing field was proprietary, which means I barely have any work that I'm allowed to show potential employers to prove what I can do! 

Anyway, to make a long story short, I set myself up with a two-pronged plan to correct that situation - the sooner the better. (More on the first prong in another post to come soon!) To make good on the second part of the plan, I've been doing the stressful and unpleasant work of job hunting for a while now, trying to find a (very) part-time, fully remote/telecommute writing-related position I can do (in addition to my full-time job) between now and when we eventually leave NY to serve as a bridge between where I am and wherever we go/whatever we do next.

AND I FINALLY GOT HIRED!

Only time will tell if it works out or if I end up going back to the drawing board but, for the moment, I am enormously relieved. It feels SO good to know that I'm not just wishing and dreaming but actually doing something to set us up for success in the areas and plans we hold near to our hearts.

Monday, January 8

Word of the Day

I ran across an awesome word today: insalubrious.

in·sa·lu·bri·ous
/insəˈlo͞obrēəs
/
 adjective, formal: (especially of a climate or locality) not salubrious; unhealthy
  
I can't think of the last time I've seen this word in print or heard it used anywhere, but it's much too fabulous to be so neglected, don't you think?


  1.  

Sunday, January 7

The Physics of Everyday Things

The Physics of Everyday Things is a brilliant book that made me feel, shall we say, less than brilliant. It is also a book I wish that I had had the opportunity to read at a much younger age. If you want to get kids interested in science and technology, this book (and Kakalios' other book, The Physics of Superheroes) is how to get started!

The framing of the book is magnificently done: we follow a normal, average businessman through his typical day, from waking up to going to bed, exploring the technology he uses and encounters along the way. This includes everything from the toaster that makes his breakfast to the GPS that helps him navigate traffic to the touchscreen of an ATM and the high-tech equipment he benefits from at a doctor's appointment, on an airplane flight, and in a business presentation. There's discussion of everything from simple electrical circuits and basic conduction to the binary language of computers, radio waves, and the mechanical back-up fail-safes that keep our elevators secure.

It was eye-opening to be reminded of just how much technology – both what we consider 'high-tech' and older-school but equally complex alternatives – goes into the modern life we so easily take for granted. Interesting as the book was, however, parts of it were hard for me to get through which I attribute to two factors. First, to be blunt, the science classes of my youth were clearly lacking. I have vague memories of talking about electrical circuits, magnetism, etc. round about fourth grade and occasionally in high school, but I decidedly did not retain enough to go into this book with anything qualifying as background. So I was fully reliant on the explanations in the book to keep up. Which would have been fine, except for factor number two: I am a visual learner. Although Kakalios provides very well done explanations, there are few diagrams, sketches or illustrations in the book and they are all exceptionally minimalistic. That's probably fine if you're keeping up, but I consistently found myself tempted to put the book down, hop online, and find a better one to catch me up before I kept going so that I could stay with the program. Now, if you're reading this with a young person, that's probably a point to the book's favor. If you're just reading it for your own edification, not so much.

But that's just me. Your mileage may vary, and the book is decidedly worth giving a shot!