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Posted on Jul 22, 2013 in My Journey

Adventures in Relaxation

This weekend, we decided to get out of the house Saturday to avoid a fireworks display near our house.  We discovered July 4th weekend that my lovely doggie is terrified of fireworks.  He has no problem with thunderstorms, but the fireworks that have been going off in our neighborhood for the past two weeks have turned my easygoing, happy dog into a shivering mass of stress.  So, instead of hiding in the closet tonight, we are checking into a dog-friendly hotel.

This is the opposite of roughing it.  The hotel even has doggie room service and a private dog run. Yes, we thought about camping, but the forecast is for rain overnight and Sunday, so we went for a different kind of adventure.  First, we had to get a good walk in, and all the shopping and chores done (and a nap for one of the crew).  We packed dinner, some squeaky toys and the 2nd favorite dog bed.  We turned the house and its almost-perfect view over to some fireworks lovers.

So what happened?  Nothing.  It was perfect.

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We made friends with the staff (no matter that the Concierge was allergic, he handed out many treats).

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We relaxed.

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And slept.

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And relaxed some more.

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I hear the fireworks were great: An hour long and synchronized to music.

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photo: theopie
And it did rain like crazy on Sunday (Yes, the rooms with the best views are not saved for the guests with dogs).

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And now we will have a nice, relaxed week.

 Happy Monday, Everyone!

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Posted on Jul 21, 2013 in Menus and Recipes

Menu plan for the week of July 20: Food on the run

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This weekend, I did not have much time for planning, shopping and cooking.  Luckily, my garden has a beautiful crop of lettuce and plenty of tomatoes.  Perfect conditions for salads.

Shopping list (* sale items)

  • *Pork shoulder roast
  • Chicken tenders
  • Cucumbers
  • *Red peppers
  • *Blue cheese
  • *Bacon (cut in 1 inch pieces)
  • *cantaloupe
  • *Blueberries
  • *Raspberries
  • *Strawberries
  • Sandwich rolls
  • *Roasted chicken
  • *zucchini
  • Red cabbage
  • yogurt

Garden and pantry items

  • Garlic
  • Tomatoes
  • Lettuce
  • Red onion
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Chicken stock
  • Carrots
  • Italian salad dressing with balsamic vinegar
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Salsa
  • Cheese
  • Crackers

Pulled pork

Braise pork roast 4-8 hours in a slow oven 200 degrees, or slow cooker in chicken stock about halfway up the roast.  It’s nice to do it overnight when you will be in a hurry the next day.  I never leave food cooking on the counter when I’m at work with a tall dog home alone!

Allow to cool, and pull with two forks, removing excess fat and connective tissue.

Most of this got frozen for later use.

 

Grilled chicken tenders and zucchini

I sliced the zucchini very thin along the long edge, and brushed on some cooking oil

Then the tenders were tossed in the seasoned salt

Both were grilled, and cooled before refrigerating.

 

Gazpacho

  • 6 tomatoes, cut in wedges
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and cut into chunks
  • 1/2 red onion, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 can V8 juice
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Black pepper

Process garlic in food processor until completely chopped.  Add other vegetables and process until they make a chunky soup.  Add V8 juice, vinegar and oil, and season with pepper to taste.  This is nice served with chopped radishes or avocados, or with sour cream swirled in.

I prepared all of the veggies on cooking day, and prepared the soup on the day we ate it.  Leftovers were great for lunches!

Microwave omelet

  • 2 eggs, whisked with a fork
  • chopped grilled zucchini
  • cooked bacon

Mix in zucchini and bacon in microwave safe bowl that looks way too big (about 3 times the volume of the egg mixture).  Microwave on high for 2 minutes, more if necessary, until eggs are cooked through.  Eggs will puff up, then sink back.  Eat on toast as a sandwich, or as an omelet.

Breakfasts

Microwave omelets

Yogurt and berries

Lunches (with yogurt and cantaloupe)

Gazpacho and cheese/crackers

Chicken tenders and grilled zucchini

Dinners

Pulled pork sandwiches with red cabbage cole slaw

Spicy pork tacos and gazpacho

BLT plus cheese salad

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Posted on Jul 19, 2013 in Inspiration

Why TGIF?

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I was talking today with a co-worker about why people uniformly consider Friday to be so great and Monday is such a downer.  We started with the idea that the weekend represents freedom, and the work week is all about doing what you have to do, not what you want to do.

When I mentioned how much I love to wake up early Saturday morning and think about the possibilities of the day, she pointed out that on Saturdays, you have to get up and do all of the stuff that you have to get done around the house while you have time, and Sundays are sort of tough because you are finishing up the chores and thinking about the weekend ending, and starting the workweek again.

If this is true, then the actual weekend is not the good part of the week, but the ANTICIPATION of the weekend is the good part.  Does it follow then, that what we don’t like about Monday is the anticipation of the long work week?

Aside from all of us achieving the goal of doing what we love all week (really, that is the best plan, right?), we can improve our week by anticipating something nice every day, or at least planning something nice to look forward to.

We could also avoid focusing on what we don’t like about work days.  They aren’t all bad:  Sometimes, when you stay late, you have meaningful conversations with thoughtful co-workers.

 

Photo credit: Bekathwia

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Posted on Jul 18, 2013 in How to simplify, Resources

Making Time

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The other day, I wrote about how time and space are the ultimate luxury. The next day, I put down some ideas on how you can increase the space in your home to give yourself room to relax, and to do the things you want to do.

The most difficult luxury to acquire is time.  In fact, billionaire or college student, we each have only 24 hours in the day.  You could increase your time by hiring people to do things for you like clean the house (I would love to do this).  Here are a few things that I have found to increase my time to spend with family and friends doing the things that are important to me (like this blog).

Don’t work all the time

If your hours are flexible, chances are that you are working more than 40 hours per week.  Could you increase your output in fewer hours?  Try these:

  • Organize your space.  This includes your computer desktop.  You will spend less time looking for things, and as a bonus, you will feel less stressed.
  • Check your email only periodically.  If your computer chimes every time an email comes in, you will look up even if you don’t check it.  If you’re like me, when you are doing something tedious or difficult, you want to see if something wonderful has arrived that will rescue you take you away.
  • Avoid time-wasting coworkers.
  • Set time limits on tasks during the day.  Not only will you have a goal to meet, you will be less likely to be distracted if you know you only have to work on this for 15 minutes more.

Have your schedule all in one place

This will help you avoid double-booking, and will help everyone in the house to know where they need to be and when.  You can do this with a paper calendar on the wall, or a computer calendar.  I use Google Calendar to block out time, and a page-a-day calendar on my desk for lists of calls and other small tasks.

Write down everything you have to get done

However you do it, you will forget less, and worry less about forgetting.

Be realistic about screen time

Do you spend many hours watching TV or online just surfing?  If you don’t have time to get everything done, think about reducing your screen time.

    • Use screen time as a reward for tasks done.
    • Use a timer or program to limit how much time you spend online or on social media sites (or whatever tempts you) during your peak work hours.Take a break during commercials to switch the laundry or tidy up the room.
    • Don’t watch the news when you first wake up.  I don’t know if this works for everyone, but avoiding the hype of TV news in the morning puts me in a better mood and a more productive mode all day.  I walk instead, and this is even better for productivity.

Clean up daily, and deep clean less often

If you clean up messes as they arise, and spend a few minutes every day tidying and wiping, you can spend less time doing the big house cleaning. This will reduce the stress of living in clutter, and could free up time on your weekend!

Don’t cook every day

I plan and prepare for the week on one day.  I spend less time shopping, and almost no time planning and cooking dinner after work.  Shopping less often saves money, too.

Get everyone involved

I have a friend who has the “hour of power” for the whole family one day per week, before they do something they all look forward to.  They put on some music, and tidy, dust, vacuum and clean surfaces in one hour.

Save the boring tasks

I have tasks that I hate to do because they are tedious and repetitive.  Recently, I have saved these tasks for after intense meetings, when my brain is fried.  I can be productive on those boring tasks when my mind has no capacity for anything else.  This strategy works for when you are on hold on the phone or waiting in line.  I keep my notes nearby when I am likely to spend time waiting.  As my mind wanders, I try to make decisions and plan for grants and manuscripts.  My body is stuck in one place, but my brain is free to think!

 

 

Photo credit: sidewalk flying

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Posted on Jul 15, 2013 in How to simplify

Time to change

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When it’s time to change, sometimes it’s best to do it all at once:  Dive in and do it.  Clear out the garage, throw out the junk food, make over your clothes.

Sometimes, you can make a small change: Push yourself to do one small thing differently over and over until it becomes part of your routine.  Then you can celebrate a little, and make the next small change.

If you choose the first approach, you will have to do make smaller, consistent changes in routine as well to maintain the new state.  If you don’t, things will go back to the way they were before long.

 

Photo credit: marc falardeau
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