Overworked, Under Paid, Overwhelmed

Time to Get it Together!

So I’ve been on this new schedule where I work four ten-hour days per week for a while now. It has it’s pros and cons. The days are definitely long, but there’s no extra commute time since I work from home. I do love having that extra day off per week, too! :D My scheduled hours on three of the days is what presents the only problem. I’m not done until 6:00 PM (or later if a phone call comes in last minute, which means I don’t really have a set time to clock out for the day). So dinner planning is even worse than it ever was with varying likes and dislikes (more dislikes than likes). Toss in the mandatory overtime and you can see why I’ve been a bit overwhelmed.

Being at least visible to the family for a decent amount of time on top of my schedule has pulled me away from blogging, jewelry-making, and photography. I could blog from a laptop to at least be present and not hidden away in my office, but I like to use photos in my blogs. Photos are on my desktop computer. I could make jewelry upstairs, but then I’d have to drag everything up there and then bring it all back down when I’m done. It’s easier to leave  it all together and to be able to leave it out so I can easily pick up later where I left off. Likewise with photography – Photoshop and Lightroom are on my desktop computer.

Making decisions has also become harder than ever because I don’t want to disappoint anyone. Trying to decide on what to have for dinner or where to go on days off that will please everyone (and not break the bank) is completely overwhelming to me. So I’ve decided I need lists. And I need to take the time necessary to make those lists. AND I need to not feel guilty about taking that time or feel silly because I need such lists. This could be what I need to remove some anxiety from my life. So I would appreciate not only support but also help in maintaining and adhering to such lists.

The first thing to tackle: Food

I spent some time this morning creating lists of things to keep in the kitchen for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The most difficult, of course, is dinner. I hate that we’ve been doing the “free for all” thing for dinners due to schedule differences, and I miss having real meals for those who will actually eat it all at least a few times per week. So I also went back to my weekly meal plan lists and completed four weeks worth of those. Days can be switched or substituted along the way, and Saturdays are left blank for ideas or possibly dining out, but at least the ideas are there. This will all make it easier to make grocery lists and hopefully drop our trips to the store back down to no more than twice per week. I know some can shop only once per week or less, but fresh produce hasn’t been staying so fresh very long lately. Also, I hate waiting for meat to thaw or forgetting to remove it from the freezer in the first place. I like fresh! :)

To that end, I’m also looking for ideas to deal with the late hour I’m able to even start dinner. This morning, thanks to Pinterest, I found an idea that I’m going to try on Monday. Crock Baked Potatoes! It doesn’t take long to cook up some chicken breasts on the Foreman Grill to serve them with either. A little salad on the side and VOILA! Full meal deal! :)

As for the under paid part of the title of this post, it would be worse if I didn’t work from home. I’d have to update and maintain my wardrobe as well as commute to and from an office building. That alone would increase my insurance from my current “light use” status and increase the gas and wear & tear expenses for my car. The company claims to have done research and feels that the salary for CSRs (customer service reps) is right on par with other companies. They should revisit this because they are erroneously considering our department CSRs for payroll purposes, but we are Trust & Security Specialists. The work we do is far different than the other departments. I’ve trolled the internet for metrics from reliable sources (not ask.com or answers.yahoo.whatever type sites), and there are jobs with similar descriptions out there that pay a lot more than what I make. I don’t want to change jobs and work in an office building, though. So if you’re a coworker reading this, don’t worry! I’m not leaving my job! :D

So today I’ve taken some time to make a few lists, search the interwebs for dinner ideas, and blogged. A bit of weight has already been lifted. I think I’ll stop while I’m a tiny bit ahead and go shopping with the girls now. Baby steps! I’ll tackle something else tomorrow morning.

Coffee Favorites

8O The very first week of the month and I botched my blog goal. I did specify daily posts Monday-Friday. So, as any employer ga-ga over goals these days would tell you, it’s okay to rework goals that you don’t feel are achievable (too easy or too difficult). That goal is now to write five posts per week. Week 1: goal surpassed! This is #6. It may be lame, but it still counts. My blog, my rules. :P

With that aside, I want to know what your favorite coffees are.

  1. What is your favorite coffee you can buy at any grocery store?
  2. What is your favorite coffee shop coffee?

Some say they can drink just about any coffee as long as it “does the job”. Even if it’s bitter? YUCK! We had switched from Folgers to Maxwell House because MH is cheaper. Folgers was on sale last week, so I bought that instead. I guess I bought a different roast than I used to because this is awful! I also used lukewarm water in the coffee maker, and they recommend cold water. Why? Because cold water is fresher. Hot water sits around in your water heater for a long time. When heated more in the coffee maker, the taste of the minerals and any other sediment that might be in your water heater are intensified, thus ruining your coffee. True story. Use cold water, people. ;)

I do like the Starbucks Breakfast Blend from the shelf because it’s mild. I only buy this when it’s on sale, though. Same with any of those little bags of coffee. I really haven’t been disappointed with any of those, but they are so expensive. So I’m curious to hear what you all prefer.

Movie Obsessions

There are few movies I can watch over and over. Two such movies, if you haven’t already figured out, are Julie & Julia and The Devil Wears Prada. A recent addition to this movie obsession is Eat Pray Love. I recently discovered something similar about these movies. No, not that Meryl Streep is in two of them. Each of these movies is based on the lives of real people. I haven’t read any of the books, but I did find the actual blog by Julie Powell, The Julie/Julia Project … Nobody here but us servantless American cooks…, which I have vowed to finish reading by the end of my vacation. So 365 days worth of working her way through Julia’s cookbook to read in nine days. I should be done well before then because I’ve found that she didn’t blog every single day, making it easy to read through two or three months worth per day.

So far, I’ve learned several things that were changed and even omitted. The date Julie began the project is off by over a week. Why? Who knows!  Julie and Eric moved to their new apartment after she started the project. Julie had a pet snake, ZuZu, who like to sleep in a boot. The orange tabby cat in the movie? Nope! It was a gray, long-haired cat in reality. Also, the apartment was over a Greek restaurant – not a pizza place. Why does this intrigue me so much? It’s like reading a piece of fiction, but it’s really someone’s life. It’s also a revelation about French cooking. Savory but oh so unhealthy! I think if I were to take on such a project, I would choose a Mediterranean cookbook. Not that I need another project!

Year 45, Day 3 | Day One of Vacation

Mourning the death of my mixer.Thursday was the 44th anniversary of the day of my birth (fancy way to say it was my birthday). Day 1 of my 45th year of life. Like the day of my birth, the day was a bit stressful. I was 8 lb 5 oz, and my mom was a petite thing at barely 5’1″. My fat head was stuck in her pelvis, and apparently the only way to save one or both of us was to do an emergency Cesarean. As I struggled to make my way into the world 44 years ago, I struggled to make my way through the day on my birthday. I can imagine the next 36 hours after my birth, I was pretty exhausted – as most babies are. Well the next 36 hours after my 44th birthday, I felt much the same and kept longing for the work day to be over.

I ended day two of my 45th year with my husband at a little corner bar called G-Ducks, where our friends’ band ONE15 was playing. I had shared the Facebook invite several times and even mentioned my birthday. I don’t normally throw guilt trips around, but I have to say to the multitude of local “friends” on Facebook, “Where were you?” I know it’s the first day of spring break in our area so I tried giving the benefit of the doubt that maybe people had family plans. By coincidence, the friends who were there were friends and family of the band members already.

It’s all good, though! I had a good time. Well, with the exception of some chick who thought her shot at the pool table trumped my photo op that I was already poised and focused, ready to capture. She expected me to get out of her way and was clearly irritated when I didn’t immediately move but said “Hang on” nicely as I took my shot. I saw her much later at a table glancing over her shoulder at me and miming taking a photo with a cell phone as she was clearly relaying the story to her guy friend. We made eye contact, and I smiled with a slight smirk and tiny shake of my head as if to say, “Get over it already!” Sad to know that these are the things people choose to hold on to. <sigh>

Moving on to day three of my 45th year of life. I woke up with a splitting headache, which I believe is purely coincidental and not just a hangover since I only had three draft beers last night. So I guzzled some water, made coffee, and started to make buttercream frosting for the cupcakes I made yesterday. As I was waiting for the water and Meringue powder to come together and form stiff peaks in my KitchenAid mixer, something popped and clattered inside and the damn thing just died. It’s only MAYBE two years old and is very gently used. Why??? So my cupcakes sit naked in the kitchen while I sit with head pounding in front of this computer avoiding anything resembling work of any kind as this is, after all, day one of my vacation.

Vegetarian or Vegan?

Would you, or could you, become either one?

I could be a vegetarian (I’m sort of a semi-vegetarian already), but I don’t have the time, energy, or money to be a vegan. I added money because to be 100% strict vegan, you have to make absolutely sure you aren’t consuming or using anything that contains anything related to animals. I’m guessing that would include avoiding food grown in dirt that has been fertilized with manure? I found this interesting diagram explaining what all contains animal products:

Health & Fitness Update | Week 5

Remember the fitness kick I got on almost 6 weeks ago? Here are the collection of blog posts if you don’t. Well, as suspected, the exercise part would be the hardest. I had (still have) good intentions, but I just can’t seem to make it a priority. Yes, it feels good when I actually do exercise! I keep breaking the cycle before a habit has been formed. They say it takes 27 days to form a habit. Four days in a row may have been my longest streak! Then life & busyness happen.

The food part has become quite fun, though! Since I found an app for my new phone that lets me track food and exercise while syncing to a website with a name I abhor, Fatsecret.com, it’s become almost a game. It has a list of restaurants to choose menu items from that you’ve eaten, and you can even scan the bar code from items that you eat at home! The app for Android is called Calorie Counter. I’m sure they have something for you iPhone users, too.

So even with slacking in the routine exercise department, I have lost a whopping three pounds. More importantly, though, I’ve dropped an inch from my waist and about a half inch each from my upper arms and thighs. Now to find some private time to use the Wii for my new Yoga disc I bought! I’ll either have to get up at 5:30 a.m. or double up my breaks and work out mid-morning.

Beep! Perfect timing – my bread is done. I’ve “budgeted” my calories today so that I can enjoy some fresh, homemade white bread! Sometimes you just have to indulge a little.

Lifestyle Change | Health & Fitness

“You are what you eat.” Most of us have heard this statement. Have you seen the grease from bacon or other meats coagulate as it reaches room temperature? Gross! I’m halfway on the right track to being healthier just feeling this way. I’m to the point where I don’t even care to eat out anymore.

First of all, the portions they serve is enough for three or four meals for me. Even eating half of it is too much. Seriously! When I take home leftovers and then warm them the next day for lunch, it’s still more than I would normally plate for myself. Restaurant plates are huge!

Secondly, fast food… Where do I even start? I try to opt for the “healthiest” item on the menu. Whenever I do cave to the crave and order a burger, I feel terrible later. On the other hand, I never have that “Oh, I ate too much” feeling after feasting on fresh fruits and veggies. So it’s easy for me to change my diet since I love all sorts of fruits and vegetables. The rest of my family will be the challenge – some more than others.

The challenge for me is the fitness half of the equation. I wouldn’t go so far as to invite Jillian Michaels to whip my arse into shape. I’d crumble the first time she yelled at me! I need something or someone to hold me accountable, though. I remember before I had any kids, exercise became an addiction. I want that back, and I want it for my kids as well. This is one addiction I would certainly welcome!

There are some who walk a lot on the job and fall back on that when someone mentions the need for exercise: “I get lots of exercise at work.” That’s your normal lifestyle, though. Your body is used to that much activity. What it needs (especially if you still gain weight despite that level of activity) is a separate workout routine where you can sustain an increased heart rate for a certain amount of time.

We have this Tony Little elliptical contraption that takes up a considerable amount of space. We don’t have a separate space to put it that’s convenient or out of the way. We were going to try to sell it when our community garage sale was going on, but we never got ourselves out there to man a sale of our own. So it’s now in the garage folded up, and I’m considering bringing it inside and putting it in the middle of the living room and creating a challenge chart for the family. Its not exactly ideal decor, but the extra rolls around our middles is not ideal decor either!

I started watching what (and how much) I eat two days ago. Yesterday – Breakfast: half a bagel with PB schmear. Lunch: half a chicken salad sandwich with fresh veggie medley & 1 Tbsp veg dip. Dinner: 3 grilled chicken wings, baked beans, side salad with 1 Tbsp homemade dressing (garlic, onion, Parmesan cheese, red wine vinegar, olive oil). Dessert: Smoothie – low fat vanilla yogurt, frozen mango, 1 whole fresh peach, 1/2 banana, a little ice. I’m also increasing my water consumption. I don’t drink much soda and when I do, it’s sugar free.

The easy part is underway. Now for the hard part: exercise!

Cinnamon Rolls | Bread Machine

I’ve wanted to try making my own cinnamon rolls for a long time using the bread machine to make the dough. It takes roughly three hours from start to finish, though, and it would be nearly lunch time by the time they were ready to eat! So I finally made them tonight using this recipe. I know I can put them in the fridge before the final rising time, then finish the process in the morning, but that’s still about 30 minutes of rising and 20 minutes of baking. Nah! Rewarming is much quicker. Granted, these didn’t all make it that long this time. I will definitely do it again, though! Ali helped me with these.

Of course, I had the first one!

Homemade Pizza | Bread Machine for Dough

We like to make our own pizza, but we’re getting tired of the quick dough recipes. After a friend posted a photo on Facebook of a pizza she made noting that she makes her dough in the bread machine, I found this recipe for pizza dough in the bread machine. Sure, it takes two hours to make the dough in the machine but if you plan ahead, this time isn’t a big deal. Toss in the ingredients, turn it on, and do something else for a while. When the dough is ready, you’re eating pizza in 30 minutes or so!

Are you hungry now?!

Good Old-Fashioned Home-Cooked Meals

Who’d a thunk?  Cooking up this savory lunch was actually quite simple!  You can buy everything presliced to save even more time, but I like to slice my own food.  My Fajita Burrito took all of 20 minutes to prepare.  I can’t share a recipe because I didn’t follow one myself.  I looked over a few different ideas on the internet and decided to wing it.  I will say that the cayenne pepper was a nice touch!  Would it be wrong to have a smaller serving as a bedtime snack?  :D

It felt great to cook something like this myself and eat at home for a fraction of the cost of a restaurant meal.  I’ve been wanting to get back to this for a long time, but I’ve been procrastinating because the mere thought of the planning process is overwhelming.  The savings alone is a wonderful motivator, though.  The health benefits – yet another motivator!  And it doesn’t hurt that I actually enjoy cooking.

Now, if I can just get my family on board with trying more things!