Uncategorized

Fridge and Freezer Frustrations – Uncluttering in the Kitchen

I am joining in on the 2017 Unclutter Your Nest challenge at Nourish and Nestle.  I have uncluttered a lot of my kitchen cabinets already.  I got rid of dishes, coffee cups, glasses, expired food, and some pans.  I still sometimes have some issues finding places to put things, but for the most part, I have a place for everything in my kitchen.  But I am constantly struggling with my refrigerator and less often, but every once in a while, the freezer (because we have a stand-up freezer in our garage, so that isn’t as much of an issue).

halfway

I have been cleaning a lot of things in my house since getting home a couple of days ago (in an attempt to get it all cleaned up before school kicks back into gear), but I have not touched my refrigerator other than to throw stuff in there and get out what I need.  I have thought about it, but just not had the motivation to do it.  So, this is what my refrigerator and my top freezer look like right now:

There are a lot of things in there.  A lot that probably needs to be thrown out, but I always have organizational issues.  I’ve tried to use baskets and Tupperware containers and “zones” but nothing ever seems to take.  We have a lot of leftovers in the refrigerator right now because my MIL sent them home with us when we returned a couple of days ago and we haven’t been eating them much.  So, that’s dinner tonight.  And maybe lunch tomorrow.  I want to have a plan for organizing the refrigerator that I can use this time.

So, I think the solution for me is the same solution that I need to use in every other area of my home.  Simplify and purge!  We just have way too much stuff in there.  I tend to save things that we are never going to eat (trying to be frugal and such) and that stuff creates such a cluster that things that have expiration dates get pushed to the back and not used in time. In addition, I don’t meal plan (I swear I’m going to…every. single. week. but here I am without one in week two of the year), so I end up with a bunch of food that I don’t use.  That makes me feel guilty AND frustrated. I’ve joked in the past about shopping daily (I know, I know, all you frugal-minded people out there are breaking out in a cold sweat and yelling “NO!  Don’t do it!” at your computer screen right now) because then I would buy exactly what I was going to go home and make – some nights it may be a made-at-home meal, other days it would just be a frozen pizza.  I don’t know if that is the solution either though.  I am an impulse shopper, so more days in the store is quite dangerous for me.

So, I think, despite my idea of going every day, I really just need to meal plan.  So, I am taking Ann Timm‘s advice from over at Keeper of the Home (you see how that fits in with my one word from this year as well?) and stick with my commitment to doing the Plan To Eat New Year’s Make Ahead Meal Challenge.  I was planning to do it and then was visiting family last week, had a hubby traveling for work this weekend and a sick kiddo to deal with as well (diagnosed today with an ear infection and pink eye…ewwwww…but, she is on eye drops and an oral antibiotic, so we should be good in a couple of days) and dropped out of the first week of the plan.  BUT, that just means we can extend it into February now, right? So, I’m going to the store tomorrow and I’m going to get the goods for this week’s meal plan and do it.  I like the idea of prepping for a few meals on the same day.  But, this means that I need to have room in my refrigerator and freezer.  So, I went ahead and cleaned them out today.  Here is the result:

So much better!  And it didn’t take long.  I threw out a lot (guilt or no guilt), rearranged some things and grouped things by category.  I now have some space for things I will have to have for the meal planning challenge.  I will also have room in my freezer.

I’m hoping that I can avoid the Fridge Frustrations from that first picture in the future.  I just need to keep up with eating leftovers (or throwing them out if they aren’t going to get eaten).

 

 

Teacher Talk

Mind Blown: Mind/Cognitive Loads at Home and Work

You know those days when something becomes so clear to you that it is like when the eye doctor switches those lenses and everything that was previously blurry and dark becomes perfectly clear and strikingly bright?  Yeah, that just happened to me in a way that makes both my personal and professional life so much more clear and bright that I had to share. It seems especially poignant in my year of “making a home,” since it focuses on how much mental effort is really expended (mostly invisibly) in making a home.

d-e-b-u-t-s-i-n-g-l-e

So, the first thing that popped up in my Facebook feed earlier today is this Real Simple article, shared by Working Moms Against Guilt.  The article focuses on the “invisible workload” that women carry in their brains:

Walzer found that women do more of the intellectual, mental, and emotional work of childcare and household maintenance. They do more of the learning and information processing (like researching pediatricians).

They do more worrying (like wondering if their child is hitting his developmental milestones). And they do more organizing and delegating (like deciding when the mattress needs to be flipped or what to cook for dinner).

Even when their male partners “helped out” by doing their fair share of chores and errands, it was the women who noticed what needed to be done.

The article struck a chord with me, not only because it quoted a poem written by a favorite blogger of mine from back when I first realized what having a chronically ill child was going to mean to my life, Ellen Seidman at Love That Max.  My daughter is not in any way comparable to Max in all that he (and therefore his family) has to deal with on the medical front, but she had a way of making me feel better about myself as a mother and she offered guidance for how to deal with all of the doctor’s appointments and anxiety and hospital stays and so much more.  But, back to the article…I recognized our own family, where my husband often asks me to “give him a list of two or three things to do” as if he can’t see the laundry piling up or the dishes sitting dirty in the sink or the garbage that needs taking out, etc., etc.  I make and record all the medical appointments.  I deal with most of the pharmacy issues for medication.  I schedule babysitters and dog sitters.  Now that our dryer isn’t working, I do loads of wash and then pile them in the car and take them to the laundromat to dry.  I then bring them home and fold them and put them away.  I keep our calendar.  In the day-to-day, it doesn’t seem like much, but as the article indicates, it takes its toll.  And as the author of the article includes, it isn’t just all the household management that we are having to think about:

It’s about housework, yes, but it extends to having to consider what neckline, hemline, height of heel, and lipstick shade is appropriate for that job interview, afternoon wedding, or somber funeral, instead of relying on an all-purpose suit; it’s about thinking carefully about how to ask for a raise in a way that sounds both assertive and nice; it’s about worrying whether it’s safe at night and how to get home; for some of us, it involves feeling compelled to learn feminist theory so as to understand our own lives and, then, to spend mental energy explaining to others that the revolution is unfinished.

I must admit that I’m not one for changing my neckline or hemline or heel height.  I am lucky to work in academia where I am not going to be the best-dressed faculty member, but I’m also never going to be the worst dressed faculty member.  But, as a female debate coach, I know what it is like to have to think about how to approach a conversation with others.  And yes, the revolution is unfinished, although now I figure I can just show this cover of Washington Post’s Express in response to anyone who challenges that notion:

express2_010716twitter

So, I can’t say I feel “good” about the article’s findings, but I do feel somewhat vindicated in feeling overwhelmed and exhausted much of the time and a bit frustrated some of the time.

But, it didn’t end there.  That was me noticing my own pain and suffering.  The real turning point came when I then read “Enhancing Learning through Zest, Grit and Sweat,” in Faculty Focus and I came to this last advice under the “sweat” section:

Mind cognitive load. Complex assignment instructions, confusing website navigation, and disorganized course materials increase unproductive cognitive load. Cognitive load should focus energy on the subject, not on the periphery.

And I thought about my prior classes.  I thought about how I have now realized how poor some of my navigation was designed on our Learning Management System.  I realized how at times, the course materials were disorganized and sometimes late being delivered.  I realized that, in the same way that I am suffering from a heavy mind cognitive load at home, I am placing my students in a situation where they are suffering a heavy mind cognitive load because of ME!  And I realize now how important it is to relieve that load.  I realize that, in the past, I have expected my students to “let things go” or I have told them to “remind me to post materials because I might forget” and that, my friends, is really not fair to them.

So, although I have already done quite a bit of reorganization and increased the clarity and focus in my classes and the assignment instructions, etc. I have a new understanding of the WHY.  I have a personal connection to my students’ frustration.  I am able to see like I have not been able to see before.

To conclude, thinking is hard work.  I am sure that I will continue to carry the load of thinking jobs at home.  But, I can now be more aware of when it is starting to wear on me and I can be more able to voice my concerns about it.  I will also work at ensuring I do what I can to allow my students to focus on their learning of the subject matter and not the peripheral “unproductive” cognition caused by my lack of preparation or awareness.  In the end, I hope that we will all have a year with less of a mind/cognitive load.

Five Minute Friday

Five Minute Friday #1, 2017 – Connect

I am joining in for the first Five Minute Friday of 2017!  I’m excited to get started writing more consistently this year (and hopefully building my blog into something “more” as well) and Five Minute Friday is always a great exercise with a wonderful community along for the ride.  This week’s prompt is “Connect”.

connect

Here goes:

Well.  I am finding it somewhat difficult to connect to the prompt connect.  I’m just not sure where to go with it.  A lot comes to mind.  Connecting with others.  Making connections in my life.  Connecting the dots.  But, none of it is really driving me to write about it.  So, I guess I’ll write about how sometimes, it is difficult to connect with other people and things and that it is okay for that to be the case.  We would not appreciate the times when connections were strong and meaningful if those types of connections were constant and consistent.

I often have problems making close friends for example.  I just don’t connect with others as much as I would like.  And it isn’t for lack of trying.  But, when I do find someone I connect with, I feel it strongly and that connection is there whether we are spending a lot of time together or just a few minutes here and there.  I feel the same about entertainment and activities.  I don’t often feel strong connections with TV shows or movies or exercise programs.  Others seem to find something and really connect with it and loooooove it.  But, I don’t as often.  I connect with things from my past more than anything else.  Perhaps that is where I have my strongest connections – to my past.


That’s it.  I feel that this week was tough.  I’m not sure why.  It has been a long and somewhat stressful day (although I didn’t do much).  My DD is not feeling well.  And although she isn’t feeling horrible either, she did start running a fever tonight and with her past, I seem to be in a bit of a PTSD anxiety attack.  It isn’t horrible either.  I’m not panicked or anything, but I do feel a bit of trepidation about planning and what is going to happen.  In all reality, she will probably get better in a couple of days, without any complications.  We went to the pediatrician today and her lungs sounded good, she had nothing in her ears, her throat didn’t look too bad and she was negative for strep.  So, all good signs, but then she spikes a fever.  It just makes me wonder what is going on in that little body of hers.  And, in reality, it is probably nothing but a normal 7 year old virus that is running its course.  But, in a heart transplant recipient, it doesn’t ever seem like a virus or illness is normal or can just simply run its course without some concern.

So, I’m watching what I connect with – Poirot – on Netflix.  I’m waiting for the coming “Storm of the Decade” here in California, which should be hitting any time now.  I’m intermittently cleaning and organizing and purging.  I’m looking forward to a weekend of quiet and catching up and preparing for Spring 2017.  My DD is supposed to go back to school on Monday.  We will see how she is feeling.  But, I don’t have to worry because I’m not working next week!  We are scheduled to go to heart clinic on Tuesday, but with the illness/fever happening this weekend and the storm of the decade hitting, I think we will be rescheduling that.  So, that sets us up for a relatively quiet week ahead as well.  I can connect with that…

Digital Detox

I failed…a January update

That’s right.  It is January 2 and I have already failed miserably at something.  I’m admitting it right here and now.  I am at my in-laws as planned and I am typing this ON MY LAPTOP!  That’s right.  The laptop I was going to leave at home.

failed

I was also on my phone tonight while others were in the room, which is an area that I really want to work on.  If I don’t absolutely NEED to be on the phone (e.g. our dogsitter texts me with a question or something), then I don’t want to be using it.  But, there I was, scrolling through Facebook.  Sigh…

I am addicted.  My DD took it really well when I told her I wanted to use this trip as a “reset” on our technology use.  She left her beloved 3DS at home.  And although we brought the iPad Mini, she barely used it in the car on the way here and did not ask for it once tonight after we arrived.  Yet, here I am, reaching for my phone and feeling the need to be on my laptop (and although it is nice for blogging, that is not what I originally got on here to do – I just felt like I NEEDED to be on here, checking email, responding to requests that do not have to be responded to, revising syllabi that don’t need to be revised tonight, etc., etc.).  I really need to be reading the books I want/need to read.  I should be journaling, by hand in my notebook that I am starting for this year.  I should be interacting with others.  I should, I should, I should…

So, tomorrow I WILL!  I am making a commitment to not look at my phone unless I have an incoming message that demands attention (example above).  I will not use my laptop until everyone has gone to bed and then only possibly – to write a blog post and/or deal with any issues that arose that may need to be dealt with (which I don’t see happening, but I guess it could).  I can get back to tech on Friday when we have returned home, but I really need a good detox.  Seriously.  This is going to be a little painful and difficult for me.  But, as usual, my DD has set the example.  She is perfectly fine without her tech because she has her cousin and Gigi and Papa and coloring and such.  I need to focus on what I have outside of tech to entertain myself.  I knew my desire for tech was getting a little out of control, but this has really raised my awareness of just how bad it is.  And I really want to get it under control.  Here is an article with some tips for helping me…maybe you need it too?

 

A Look Ahead, homemaking

January 2017: A Look Ahead

Instead of doing a “year in review” for 2016, I decided to do a “look ahead” for the month of January.  I thought it might be fun (or scary) to lay things out for my month on the first day of each month and then do a check in at the end of the month and see whether my planning came to fruition or fell by the wayside.  There will be some affiliate links below.

january-scene-skating-early-1820s

January is a relatively relaxing month for me.  Grades are in and I don’t start teaching again until the 23rd.  BUT, this year I am in the midst of a course redesign for one of my classes and I will be working through the final stages of that before implementing in the Spring.  But, I don’t have any teaching or grading to do, which is a great relief.

I have decided to do Stephanie O’Dea‘s calendar pages for my “homemaking“.  I only got a month to see how they work out, but I absolutely love the way they look and the motivational messages on each page for January.  I was using Motivated Moms calendar and it worked okay, but I like the fun and more motivating design of O’Dea’s.  So, we’ll see if I can keep up with it.

We are going to my in-law’s for a few days this next week and I plan to leave my laptop at home (!) and just deal with absolute emergency work things while I’m there (hopefully there are none).  I’m going to be focused on reading a book for a new book club I’m starting on January 10 (we are reading The Girl With All the Gifts).  I will also be reading Blogging For Writers: How Authors & Writers Build Successful Blogs in an effort to learn more about this blogging thing and take me to the next level, hopefully.

When we return, my DD heads back to school for a day, then we have to head to Stanford for a heart clinic appointment. We will also be starting a new activity for her – our local regional children’s theater!  She loved doing the school play and a couple of friends of hers are signed up for this production, so she is going to do it as well.  She will have a practice every Monday and Wednesday until the end of April for it so, it will mirror her rehearsals this Fall, but now she will have to be there EVERY day (for her school play she got quite a few days off while they worked with the bigger parts).  So, the Stanford trip will be a quick one.  We will leave after play practice on Monday, appointment on Tuesday morning and drive back so I can make the book club meeting that evening.  Wednesday of that week, I have a parents’ meeting for our Girl Scout troop because we are headed into cookie selling season (!), then a service unit meeting for Girl Scouts on Thursday.  That weekend, we may be traveling back down to my in-laws for another visit as my hubbie is going for a competitive shoot in Ojai and that Monday is a school holiday, so we can stay an extra day, but that is a crazy week right there.

The next week, I have a Girl Scout meeting with the girls where we will start our Money Manager badge.   That Saturday, there is a Digital Cookie Training session that my DD will probably go to for Girl Scouts.  Then…SPRING 2017 SEMESTER BEGINS!!!

My schedule this Spring is four days a week, but days mostly instead of two evenings/nights, which I think I will like much better.  On Mondays and Wednesdays, I teach at my Community College regional center here in town (I had to commute 20 minutes to main campus in Fall, so this is a welcome relief as well) from 9 – 10:15 a.m. and then another class goes from 12:30 – 1:45 p.m.  So, I think I will try to stay between the two classes and do prep and grading.  It is nice because I don’t have people coming by to talk to me there like I do at my full-time teaching office hours, so I can actually get quite a bit done.  So, I’m done teaching completely on Mondays and Wednesdays at 1:45 p.m.  On Tuesdays, I have office hours at my full-time, four-year University from 10:30 – Noon and then I teach two classes back-to-back from 12:30 – 3:15 p.m.  I then have a break when I can come home and actually eat dinner with my family before returning to teach my one night class at 7 p.m.  Thursdays, I’ve scheduled office hours from 9 – 12:30 p.m., I then teach until 3:15 p.m. and I’m done for the week!  I am really looking forward to this schedule.  I am hoping that with this schedule, we can have family dinners together at home every night.

The last weekend of January, I travel to St. Louis for a Speech and Debate competition.  I am gone Thursday night through Monday afternoon (I think) so, I will have to plan something for my students for that Monday.  And then Tuesday is the end of the first month of 2017.

So, yeah…that’s my relaxing January.  Now that I type it all out, it doesn’t seem all that relaxing.  But, I know that not having classes and grading makes a huge difference in my life, so it will be somewhat relaxing for me.

What’s your January looking like?

Be more series

Be More: Financial – Plugging up money leaks

I’m back with another in the Be More series of posts.  Today, I want to discuss the idea of “money leaks,” although I think in our case, the term should be money floods.  I think of money leaks as those places where you don’t really think about how much money you’re spending until you sit down to look at the totals.  Then, you’re shocked at just how much money is going out of your pockets and into someone else’s.  In 2017, I want to make plugging up these money leaks a priority in my life.  So, I thought I would identify my top five money leaks and then report to you on how my plumbing project is going in 2017.

plugging-the-money-leaks

  1.  Eating out.  This is the real flood threat for our family.  We eat out constantly.  When my husband works a full day, he sometimes eats breakfast ($7.50) and lunch ($12-13) out.  That is basically two of his eight hours of pay gone.  Such a waste.  But, it isn’t just him.  I often get fed up with cooking and cleaning the kitchen and will voluntarily go out instead.  With the three of us, that is often between $30 and $40 a pop.  Today, we went to lunch and although we ate relatively cheap, my husband had two beers and it brought the tab up to a hefty $45!  We had a $25 gift card to the restaurant, but that was still $20 even with the gift card.  I’m tired of this money flowing out of my wallet into the pockets of others when we often don’t enjoy the food or the experience all that much. When I was younger, eating out was a weekly event.  And I do mean event.  We went out almost every Friday (when my dad got paid) and it was seen as a big deal.  When my dad was off work, we did NOT eat out.  And I don’t remember ever going out for lunch or breakfast much.  I want to make eating out something that is an experience, not something done out of desperation.
  2. Food waste.  Seriously.  This is another flood threat in our house.  I throw out so much food.  It makes me feel a little ill and very guilty.  I just can’t figure out how to buy efficiently.  I buy too much of some things.  Other things I buy planning to use them and they don’t get used because we eat out instead (see #1).  Still other things, I think I’m going to use, so I don’t put in the freezer and they go bad.  I want to be a meal planner and in fact, I’ve signed up for Plan to Eat‘s Make Ahead Meal Challenge for January.  I am a horrible meal planner.  But, I am bound and determined to make it work in the new year so we will eat at home and save money.  If you’d like to join me at Plan to Eat, they are having a 30 day free trial for new members right now and it gives you access to all their recipes for the challenge.  You can look me up as a friend and we can share recipes!  I’m under 2ndheartmom and I focus on cheap and easy food stuffs!
  3. Cell phones.  This is an area I really struggle.  I feel like I NEED to have a smartphone with data plans, etc.  Because I travel so much for work and I’m constantly going places, I feel like I need to have one to access email, etc.  But, obviously, NEED is a strong word for that.  I could live without a smartphone with a data plan.  I definitely did not need to have an iPhone 6s that is costing me an exorbitant amount of money each month.  I’m going to look into Freedom Pop in 2017.  I need to figure out if I can get out of my current contract, how much that will cost and what the trade-off will be.  But, I have a feeling that getting a limited plan would really save me quite a bit.  We spend over $200 a month for two phones.  That, my friends, is ridiculous.  By the end of the year, we’re spending $2500 just to have a device that 15 years ago, we survived without just fine.  Plus, I feel like my phone sucks up a lot of my time and attention that I could be spending on other more meaningful things.
  4. Stupid Taxes.  That’s a Dave Ramsey phrase, but it totally fits these things.  I pay a lot of late fees, overdraft fees, parking tickets, and other such nonsense each year.  I am afraid of adding it all up as it would easily be thousands of dollars.  I’m too smart to be paying so much in stupid tax.  I need to get my sh*% together and start doing thing the right way: on time and paid in full.
  5. Coffee and things at coffee shops.  It is a close tie between this and books, but I think this wins out.  I love me some Starbucks.  I have a Gold Card.  I keep track of stars.  I buy food there.  My daughter likes to get snacks there.  Sometimes I even buy bagged coffee there (pretty rare, but I do).  I get a latte almost every day I work at some point during the day.  That is three or four lattes a week at $4.25 a pop.  That is somewhere around $15 a week.  Now, there are weeks where I don’t get that much, but there are also weeks where I get much more than that.  So, on average, $10-15 a week is no exaggeration.  And the funny thing is, I make coffee at home almost every day as well.  But, I often want something later in the day or something stronger or something more fun.  So, I go to Starbucks.  Next year, I want to start drinking the coffee I make at home and nothing else UNLESS I have a gift card balance I can use.  And even then, I would like to make it only once a week (because gift card balances don’t usually go real far).  I also want to find cheaper drinks there (see this Pin related to this idea – I need to study up).  Finally, I will not buy food there (because it is outrageously expensive).

So, there you have it.  My five major money leaks that are threatening a flood.  I’m hoping that I can do some plumbing work and get those leaks fixed in 2017.  What about you?  What are your major money leaks?

subscription boxes

Walmart Beauty Box – Winter 2016

No affiliate links in this post – just sharing some product information with you all this time!

So, I’m not much into fashion or makeup.  I’m far too lazy to take much time each morning getting dressed or doing my makeup.  I was a subscriber to Birch Box for a while, but I found that I used about 10% of the things they sent.  Mostly the hair products.  And when I did find something I liked (this one exfoliating face wash was awesome), I would find the price of the product to be well out of my range of acceptability ($57 for exfoliator – that should scrape my dishes as well as my face for that price).  So, I now subscribe to the Walmart Beauty Box.  It is quarterly and only costs $5 and most of the products are under $10 if you want to purchase them.

15625500_390893297925932_7103711934322573312_n

These are my kind of products.  I love Dove products and this box has samples of their Advanced Hair Series – shampoo, conditioner and mask – as well as this yummy smelling body wash: dove-body-wash

The name sounds fancy too – mandarin and tiare flower scent.  I’m a sucker for anything that smells nice.  Living in a house with two dogs, a cat and a child will make you appreciate good smells much, much more.

I have received the Pond’s Rejuveness product before in one of their boxes and I really like it as well.  I don’t take care of my skin the way I should, but this stuff is easy to use, not greasy or painful (some of the anti-wrinkle creams seem to burn my skin slightly).  And it is cheap!  At Wal-mart it is only $8.07 for 7 oz.  Much better (and more realistic) than $57 for 4 oz. that the Birchbox exfoliator was going to cost me!

I also am looking forward to trying the Curel Hydratherapy wet skin moisturizer!  Do you put on lotion before drying off?  I learned that trick many, many years ago when I swam competitively.  The chlorine would really dry my skin out, but putting lotion on after showering and before drying off cut down on the dryness quite a bit.  But, most lotions aren’t actually MADE for that purpose.  This one is.  So, I’m curious to see if it locks in moisture better than my everyday lotions.  I also like using good smelling lotions before drying off because they leave your towel smelling great!  It is the small things in life people!

The box also came with a full-size Covergirl Lashblast mascara and a sample of Aveeno Body Yogurt in Vanilla and Oats.  The mascara alone would have cost me more than the $5 for the box, so I feel like it was a good purchase.  I will use all of the products without question and I’m even excited about using most of them!  And it is a bit of a self-care reminder to get the anti-wrinkle creams and moisturizers.  I don’t often think about my “beauty routine,” probably because I don’t have one!  But, I know at my age, I should be moisturizing much more.  I just don’t always think about it.  But, this gives me a quarterly reminder (and push) to do it with the “freebies” in the box.  It also gives me ideas for products that I would actually use that have a price tag that fits into our budget.  So, if you’re looking for the fun of a subscription box without products you couldn’t afford to buy full-sized, look no further than Wal-Mart’s beauty box.  I have seen that Target is now doing something similar, but I haven’t tried it yet and it looks to be unavailable at this time.

So, tomorrow, my skin should be a bit softer and in two weeks, I should have less wrinkles!