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


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.

(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)!