Monthly Archives: July 2013

July SeaChange Program

For the month of July I’ve been participating, quietly, in the SeaChange program, which is a part of the ZenHabits website.  The July module was on getting organized, and focused on organizing time, electronic space and physical space.  

There was a plan to follow, with specific components each week.  Each task was small but loosely defined enough so that folks with a wide range of experience could participate.  I appreciated that it was a very holistic approach rather than focusing on a room or specific niche of life.  

I wanted to participate this month in particular because I needed some motivation to stay with the habits i’ve been building, and even refine them a bit.  I want to write more about my current system, what is and isn’t working, but that’s for another time.  My hope was that spending the $10 for access to the program and an outside plan might provide the discipline to cement things.  

It did, and more.  

At the start of the month, i loaded the big items into Remember the Milk, my preferred tool for task management.  Tasks like “Process Inbox” were easy to check each day.  Others were check-ins and questions like “Are my in-boxes working?”, which would prompt me to think about it before just assuming.  I also created a project notebook in Evernote, which is how i store most of my electronic information.  I wanted to make sure if i did get off track, i had a way to come back to it.  I also made sure I saved a shortcut to the SeaChange website directly onto my browser bookmarks bar, so i’d see it daily.  

The first week was a lot of me confirming my tools – Actions go to RTM, reference material and longform ideas go to Evernote.  If i’m on the go it’s my Field Notes notebook (which deserve their own post on how awesome these notebooks are).  Email is a major inbox, which i need to keep clutter free or it’s a distraction.  My physical inbox at work is often neglected because it’s just out of eye-sight.  Overall, i had an idea of how to process incoming information.

Week 2 meant i started taking a quick review of my task list (RTM) first thing in the morning.  I had been waiting until i was in the office to do this, and sometimes it meant missing pre-work items.  There was a focus for me on making sure things were put away as soon as was appropriate, and also working on an end of day review, to make sure nothing was forgotten (mostly by making sure the red number on the RTM phone app was cleared).

Week 3 we started to look at physical items.  I started a daily ‘sweep’ of the house, looking for out of place items and putting them away.  I also tackled a small area of kitchen cabinets where our lunch supplies, mason jars and tupperwhere lived… mostly in piles.  Using some fabric storage bins that mess has been tamed.  It’s encouraged me to declutter some (hey, next month’s module!) although it’s still not entirely habit.  If there is something that sometimes gets pushed off, it’s this.  

During Week 3, Duncan also helped me pick out a Chromebook.  I didn’t have a laptop, and so i often procrastinated on tasks that involved a computer.  My office at home is lovely, but with the very hot weather it is sticky, and writing long emails on the phone is difficult, so i’d wait until i could slack at work.  Not the best plan.  The Chromebook is making me more efficient and reducing stress.  

Week 4 was a lot of review and continue.  Things have been busy on the weekends, but i’m forcing myself to make sure the weekly review happens.  It’s become a really important part of my week.  Taking the time to look forward and back daily is keeping my frustration down and helping me feel more in control.  Things are getting done.

Side effects of this month?  I’ve decided to make mornings A Thing.  Previously mornings meant wash up, take care of the cat, grab breakfast/lunch (or not) and run out the door.  Most of my review was happening at work.  I’ve decided to get up earlier and have relaxed mornings where i am more productive.  Washing up and kitty care still are there, but so is emptying the dishwasher, making a (healthy) breakfast and lunch, processing my inbox and doing my daily review.   I am attempting to get back to Morning Pages (3 pages of long hand, stream of consciousness writing each day) and start meditating for 2 minutes.  

Areas to improve? I need to not always phone in my evening reviews.  I should consider doing a two minute mind sweep in the evening to clear stuff up and let me rest.  I need to continue with the discipline and make sure my hand-written notes are properly processed.  

Going forward, i’ve cleaned up some of the RTM tasks to be more useful long-term.  Hopefully addressing many of these things on a daily and/or weekly basis will make the habits stick.

I think August’s module on decluttering will make a great next step.  I’m excited to continue on!

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Foodie Pen Pals & stuffs

So I failed at Foodie Pen Pals this month – i forgot to do pictures!  My awesome pen pal, Rachelle, doesn’t have a blog, but she did go to a nearby preparedness store and bought me two mixes – one for cookies and one for a flourless cake.  Sadly, i haven’t been able to make either!  The cookies are a ginger snap i think, which i want to save for a special occasion, because i know Duncan will eat them all right away!  The cake is flourless, but i’m not sure if that really means gluten free, so i can’t make it for an occasion when Michelle will be joining us.  Still – yummm cake!

She also sent two applesauce/fruit pouches.  Confession time: I love applesauce and it’s variants, and i know those packs are for little kids, but ummm, yeah.  They are handy for when i am in the field and want something fast and easy to eat.  I wouldn’t buy them for myself necessarily, but yay treats!  She also included two candies, which are also being saved for treats.  They are the long straw shaped candies, but i forget the name.  I associate them with trips to Mystic Seaport and Old Sturbridge Village.

Other goodies included a Boysenberry syrup and nail polish!  I’m dying to make some pancakes on Sunday morning and try it on that, although i’ll bet it’ll be good over vanilla ice cream too.  And while i often can’t wear nail polish because of work (nitrile gloves and tools don’t get along with good manicures), it’s totally the type i wear when i can!  So yay!  Thank you Rachelle!

I somehow managed to not take pictures this month.  I fail at that.  Sorry all.  Here are some pictures of other things i’ve been doing instead.

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Monday was Aimee’s birthday.  She’s 7 months pregnant now, and really starting to show.  I can’t wait to meet my newest niece in the fall!  Although Aimee is the real baker in our crazy family it didn’t seem fair she should make her own cake, and i had a few hours to flex because of working on Saturdays, so i made her a cake.

As i mentioned, Michelle can’t have gluten, so cakes are always a little bit of a challenge.  When Aimee and i use box mixes, we find the surface stays a little tacky, and frosting is super difficult (yes, those crazy cakes i’ve posted before?  All GF!).  We usually end up making a normal buttercream frosting and then warming it up in the microwave to give it a more runny consistency, but yeeesh, it’s a pain.

I used this recipe, which is a GF modification of the Hershey’s Perfect Chocolate Cake recipe and TADA! WAY better surface for frosting!

Some notes though: Do not think hot water is OK, it needs to be boiling or things don’t mix right.  Things will be runny and wet, that’s ok.  Also, the flour ratio has you make more flour than you need.  You can use some for coating the pans, but you’ll still have more than enough, so make it in an airtight container, shake it up and you’ll have some (but not enough) for another cake in the future.  I think i want to try to mix all the dry ingredients into some mason jars and then have my own “mix” ready to go for future cake making.  I’d also like to try the flour ratio for a vanilla (or other flavor) cake.

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I’ve also been back on the healthy bandwagon.  This was my breakfast and lunch yesterday.  A smoothie with spinach, mango, banana and orange juice for breakfast.  That’s a Cuppow on the mason jar, which means i can toss my fruits/veggies into the jar, blend with my immersion blender and screw the top on and enjoy!  Super simple and easy, right?

The lunch is a salad of carrot, cucumber and tomato from the Fair Weather Acres CSA, some balsamic dressing and a portion of the Fiery Seeds in my latest Graze box.    The plum is also from the CSA.  I also made a turkey & cheese wrap to add a little healthy protein in there.

The container is a laptop lunchbox.  I used to have two a few years ago (which let me pack ahead multiple days) along with a few different container sets, but they did eventually get destroyed/gross/lost.

I love the idea of the PlanetBox because it’s metal, not plastic, but my Rover just wasn’t the right size for a lot of my meals.  I often got frustrated with the fact i’d need to use two compartments to store an apple, and it wasn’t as easy to clean as you might think.  I’ll look into getting a Launch at some point, but right now the  Laptop Lunchbox makes sense because of it’s versatility.

I can do different size containers for days i have different types of meals, and things feel more waterproof.  I did splurge and buy myself a tote and Lifefactory waterbottle to make life a little easier as well.  I didn’t previously have a tote, and found it’s not always natural to carry the box flat, so sometimes things got very rattled.   This particular tote has a compartment for the box on the bottom and a spacious upper area, so i can throw a yogurt or other items in if i want more food or drink.  The waterbottle is glass with a covering that makes it easier to hold and less likely to break.  My family has some and they love them, so i was happy to get one myself.  I’ve been making lazy iced tea in it.

There is actually a lot going on lately, and i am still stuck on where i want to go with this blog, but i know letting it sit idle probably isn’t the best plan.  And phoning it in with pictures of veggies is ok, but not the full direction i want to go.  Things to think on for certain.

And now it’s time for some details about Foodie Penpals.  In case you’re a new reader, here’s a reminder of what the program is all about:

-On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal! 
-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month. 
-Foodie Penplas is open to US, Canadian & European residents.  Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. Same with Europeans. We’ve determined things might get too slow and backed up if we’re trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa. 

If you’re from the US or Canada and are in participating for August, please CLICK HERE (www.theleangreenbean.com/foodie-penpals/) to fill out the participation form and read the terms and conditions. 

You must submit your information by August 4th as pairings will be emailed on August 5th!

*If you’re from Europe, please CLICK HERE (www.thisisrocksalt.com/foodie-penpals/) to signup.

CSA day! And farmers market!

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Happy birthday America cupcakes

Aimee and I made cupcakes for the Fourth of July after fireworks last night and a parade this morning. They are vanilla with strawberries inside and a strawberry cream cheese frosting. Sadly it’s so hot the frosting is really soft. They taste awesome though!

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Black bean brownies

Aimee and I made black bean brownies in her vitamix to go with get CSA veg stir fry.

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They were ok. Next time more chocolate and more vanilla and salt. The boys wouldn’t even try them but so it goes.

CSA day!

Squash, beets, tomatoes, kohlrabi, peas, beans and scallions!

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