Monthly Archives: March 2010

Project Fill-in-the-Gaps (Or Not)

I stumbled across a brilliant idea while shamelessly blog surfing today: Project Fill-in-the-Gaps.  I found it on the blog “Editorial Ass,” and there it’s attributed to the author of The Spanish Bow, Andromeda Romano-Lax.  The project addresses all of those many books that I’ve always had on my list to read (or maybe even on my bookshelf).  Here’s Romano-Lax’s original plan, as described on Editorial Ass:

She collected a list of 100 books that she wants to have read in her life to fill in some of her reading gaps of classics and great contemporary fiction. She knew it was a monumental task ahead of her–we all tend to choose fun things instead of things we should read, right? At least I do–so she gave herself 5 years to try to get through the list, and gave herself 25% accident forgiveness, meaning if she finishes 75 titles in 5 years, she’ll consider herself to have been victorious.

It’s overwhelming to even begin, though.  What makes the cut?  What doesn’t?  Should I include mostly classics?  Award winners?  I started to make my list and when I got to about five, I stopped.  It was disheartening – like I was taking away free choice for the next five years.

It’s been difficult to keep track of the many books that I’m interested in reading.  I’ve used goodreads.com, I’ve dedicated a reader’s journal to the project, and I have the “on the bookshelf” posts every once in a while, but nothing’s really worked.  I think it would be handier to have an ongoing list.  (Plus, I could make little checkmarks to the books I’ve read, which is always a treat for me.)  Maybe, as I put a book “on the bookshelf” on my blog, I’ll keep track of it on a separate page as well.  Hopefully this idea will stick!

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The Happiness Project

After months on the library waiting list, guess what I picked up today?  The Happiness Project!  I am beyond excited.  I’ve been a fan of Gretchen Rubin’s blog for a while.  It’s inspiring, and I have used tips that she’s shared; however, I haven’t actually put her ideas and advice into an action plan.  After reading only one chapter of her book, I think I’m ready!  My own blog is actually the perfect outlet for documenting my own happiness project, and I’m already on my way with the goals that I developed when I started blogging, so I already have a head start.

The premise her happiness project is this: the author picks eleven general resolutions, and focuses on one per month.  In January, for example, Rubin works at increasing her energy level.  She then breaks down that goal into manageable, concrete tasks (in this example, they are: go to sleep earlier, exercise better, “toss, restore, organize,” tackle a nagging task, and act more energetic).  Each day, she checks off each task that she accomplishes.

I’m planning to take the next several days to get my resolutions planned, and will begin my own happiness project in April.  I’m excited to begin!

Spring Break Mentality

I’m am extremely, extremely lucky to get a spring break.  I truly don’t know how people who don’t get regular vacation time function.  I teach kindergarten and while I love my job, I do need to recharge my batteries every so often, and I appreciate the breaks and vacation days that spring up every so often (not to mention the long summer holiday!).

a vacation from your problems *

I’ll have off Thursday, Friday, Monday, and Tuesday surrounding Easter weekend.  I’ve decided, though, to start  my spring break early – yesterday, in fact.  I’m not taking any personal or sick days, but rather just mentally starting my vacation early.  I have to work just 25 hours this week, and but otherwise I’m free!  I’m going to come to work right on time and leave shortly after the kids do.  I’ll do “vacation-y” types of activities (going out to eat, shopping, spring cleaning, taking walks) before and after work tomorrow, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  This turns my six day vacation into an eleven day vacation.  I’m already loving it!

*If you don’t understand the reference from the photo, I suggest renting What About Bob immediately.

On the Bookshelf

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My Newest Love: America’s Test Kitchen

Now that I’ve found America’s Test Kitchen, I feel like I can never look at another cookbook again. The recipes I use from their cookbooks consistently turn out at a quality I’d expect to get at a restaurant (which is NOT typical of my cooking).

Like any love, though, it comes with difficulties.  I know, without a doubt, that if I follow an ATK recipe to the word, I’ll have a delicious supper/dessert/snack.  (And now my whiny voice comes out…)  But the recipes take so LONG!  By the time I get home from work, walk or work out, and relax for five minutes, it’s after five.  Then I make dinner, which can take up to two hours between the prepping, mixing, baking, cooling, dishing out… and by the time we finish eating, it’s 8:00 and a pile of dishes are waiting.  It’s exhausting!  It makes me question whether it’s worth it.  Part of it is because I’m a beginner in the kitchen, so I know the more experience I get, the easier it’ll all be.

For now, we’ve decided to save the labor-intensive dinners for the weekends and during the week, eating leftovers and simpler recipes.

How do you juggle quality versus ease?

When the cat’s away…

My husband is out of town for two nights.  He left this morning, and I miss him already.  While he’s gone, though, I’d like to make the most of my alone time!  Here’s my list.

  • Write at least three blog posts. I’m not always on top of this when H is home.  That’s good, because it follows my “act instead of plan” goal.  I do really enjoy working on this blog, though, so I’m really excited to have some alone time to do it.  (check!)
  • Weed the garden. I’m not sure how it is possible that there are weeds when the grass is barely green… but unfortunately that’s the case.  (check!)
  • Spray down old wasps nests. Does anyone know if it’s safe to just spray down old wasps nest with a hose?  They’ve been frozen all winter.  This is a job that neither H and I want to do, so I figured I’d surprise him.  (check!)
  • Make a pennant banner. I’ve been wanting to make one for a few months, and I figure now’s as good a time as any.  I found a no-sew tutorial that looks easy enough, or a relatively easy tutorial that uses the sewing machine.  (not happening…)
  • Take a walk. It’s too nice outside not to.  (double check!)
  • Make the grocery plan for the week. (check!)
  • Plan grocery trip. Let’s see if I can actually plan a successful trip using double coupon day, and armload of coupons, and a grocery store flyer.  (check!)
  • Clean. While I’m not really looking forward to it, good spring cleaning is needed.  This is one of the last items on my list, though, so we’ll see if it actually gets done!  (half check! it’s not a spring cleaning, but it’s a good tidying up)
  • Watch a lot of murder mystery television shows. H isn’t really a fan, but I always love a one hour open and shut case.  I already know this is a bad idea, because I always get scared when I watch CSI or any of those criminal shows… but I know I’ll do it anyway!  (check!  but I wish I didn’t, especially when I’m alone in the house.)
  • Eat cereal for dinner. Another thing that I love but don’t do much when H is home.  (check!)

**Update… And, because I’m crazy and love to add things to my list just for the sake of checking them off, here are some other things to add to my list…

  • Go grocery shopping. And save a bundle of money to boot.  (check!  but too bad I realized 3 hours later that I left the milk on the fridge.  Still drinkable?)
  • Update groceryhop.com. This is my new way to track groceries.  I’ll post on it when I figure out how much I like it! (check!)
  • Close an old bank account. (check!)
  • Pick up shoes for Anne’s wedding. (check!)
  • Put snow clothes in storage. (check!)
  • Take out the garbage. (check!)

Nutritious Lunch and Snack Ideas

H and I bring brown bag lunches to work every day.  Well, thermal bag lunches, if we’re being technical.  I’m in a rut, though.   An average lunch would include a sandwich, apple or orange, NutriGrain bar, and Craisins.  A delicious lunch, yes, but it could use a little variety now and then.  I’ll sometimes throw in other types of fruit, yogurt, baby carrots, cheese and crackers, dry cereal, or applesauce.  Still, it’s your pretty standard lunch.  I’ve been looking to mix it up a little, and here’s what I found.

Main Lunch Component

  • p b&J
  • deli meat sandwiches
  • pasta salad
  • deli meat and cheese wrap
  • egg salad & crackers
  • leftover pizza
  • tuna salad & crackers
  • cheese, sausage, & crackers
  • cereal with separate container of milk
  • celery, peanut butter, & raisins
  • BLT or BLT wrap
  • bagel with ham and cream cheese
  • salad with dressing in small side container
  • oatmeal packet with a separate container of milk (to heat up)

Snack

  • fruit leather
  • popcorn
  • yogurt and granola
  • nuts
  • string cheese
  • trail mix
  • whole or cut fruit
  • peanut butter balls
  • carrot sticks or peppers with hummus
  • cherry tomatoes
  • hardboiled egg
  • raisins
  • muffin
  • crackers
  • pretzels
  • cottage cheese
  • cheese cubes
  • banana or zucchini bread
  • flavored applesauce
  • granola bars
  • dried fruit
  • goldfish crackers
  • snap peas
  • rice cakes

I have more possibilities for lunch that H does.  I can hike down to the teacher’s lounge and use the microwave, toaster, or utensils to assemble my lunch if needed.  H eats at his work desk, so he has a few more restrictions.  For ease of eating, his lunches should be ready to eat.  He also doesn’t love containers all over the place – one for carrots, one for dip, etc.  His desk isn’t huge, so he doesn’t want containers all over the place, but I’m not a fan of plastic baggies.  I typically use small glass containers with plastic lids, and they do take up quite a bit of space.  They’re also a little embarrassing to have piled up!  I’ve looked at Bento Boxes (see below), but most of those that I’ve seen are either expensive or geared toward elementary school children.  I guess I’ll just stick with easily edible items, and keep my eyes peeled for affordable, grownup bentos!

Anything else that I could add to the list?