Oh Five Hundred

It’s o-dark-thirty, I have my morning tea, and the cats are pleading for my attention.

Today’s 0600 yoga class is one of my favorites, and so despite very little sleep last night (due to terrifying thoughts of The Election, which is akin to thinking cantsleepclownswilleatme in terms of lulling yourself to dreamland), I find myself up at 0500.  I think I may have actually created… a habit?

It seems completely wrong to be doing anything else right now other than getting ready for class, though when my brain discovers (halfway through some forearm work) that we are no longer in bed, I’m sure things will feel much less pleasant.

Here’s my current background noise.  Call me Stuart Smalley.

 

Mostly Harmless

I skipped yoga class this past Sunday and Monday in favor of nurturing my muscles – apparently my hammies didn’t get the notice about my new schedule – and caught up on some domestic items. There is this growing inner guilt about skipping a day at the studio, because if I’m not going every day then clearly I am not trying hard enough, but there’s a fine line between hobby and obsession.

Part of my therapy is remembering, actively, the differences between “need to do” and “want to do”. Do you need to go to the studio every day? No. Do you want to do yoga every day? Yes. Do you need to? No. But there’s no reason a day of meditation can’t be found throughout cleaning your home and grocery shopping. (Thank you, Apartment Therapy and Pinterest.) Add in a few conscious stretches and it’ll be okay. You don’t need to watch a half-hour long video. You don’t need to do a 28-day challenge.  Moving furniture around and vacuuming will certainly burn off some calories, as will taking a walk. (This is not where we talk about Pokemon Go.) Lighter days like that will also probably help that deep-seated ache in your glutes, which was self-inflicted by taking a 2-hour bheemashakti class on Monday, then a 1-hour vinyasa level 1-2 class on Tuesday, followed a few hours later by a 75-minute healing class. So, that’s my gentle reminder to myself to take it a little easy today, so that I don’t spend the rest of this week in a sedentary fashion.

Speaking of vinyasa, I finally got to take a class from Miss Heather Stants, whom I’ve always found to be inspiring. Considering how long she’s been in the dance-and-bodywork game, it wasn’t surprising to find that she’s a good yoga teacher as well.

I am even enjoying – yes, really and truly enjoying – the 6AM start time. For real.

But the reason for this post today is because COCONUTS.

Oil, water, chopped, shredded, om nom nom.

I hate the taste (mouthfeel? texture?) of coconut in solid form, but I love the smell. And then I discovered Dr. Bronner’s coconut oil.

This was after using what I did not realise was inferior refined oil from Vons.  The oil was inferior because I say so, but also because I’ve done research that I am too lazy to link back to right this moment.. A bit further along there came a day I was out on Errands and got thirsty, as you do. Stopped by Trader Joe’s for a little produce and noticed Harmless Coconut Water.

The coconut water was cold, delicious, and …pink. So I did some research and after several tests, ice-cold Harmless Harvest is my favorite and makes me feel the best.

In closing, a non-haiku:

I tried it, it was delicious, I was hooked
Then found out about Dr. Bronner’s
Now it is in all the things
Please try it
Because yum.

That’s all. Have a nice day.

My Descent Into All the Things

Some time ago I was diagnosed with anxiety, PTSD, and (more recently) cyclothymia. This means that a lot of my life has been spent trying to do everything all at once, occasionally succeeding, but mostly overloading myself so as not to pay any attention to my increasingly unstable emotions.

On top of a standard 40-hour workweek at Fulltime Paid Office Job (FPOJ), my social calendar with friends had a minimum of three items per week, my freelance work clocked in at about an hour a day, I was helping a non-profit/social organization with three to five events per week, and somewhere in there I needed to make art, read a bunch of books, crochet everything, re-brand my business, do domestic things, go to therapy, work out, and every so often I’d get to schedule in sleep.  This has gone on for …about two years.  We’ll exclude some very negative incidents that occurred between late 2011 and mid 2015, but they also contributed to my current state of life.

Things fluctuated between feeling fabulous and overwhelming, until my workload at FPOJ became a constant source of looming fear in the form of paperwork. I’m not going to list specifics of exactly how much work I had to do, but let’s just say that it involved a solid 6 to 7 hours five days a week of straight working. When I say that, I mean that a minimum of 6 hours out of my 8 hour shift were spent doing actual work. Near Memorial Day I would have people arriving as I got there, waiting for me specifically, and the last customer would leave either at the end of my shift or within an hour of my shift ending.

I process a LOT of paperwork per individual/company, and I consider myself both organized and efficient, but there is only so much that one person can do in an hour.

The work stacked up.  I began utilizing my ten minute breaks for the first time in years, still feeling guilty about leaving my work during even that time period.  I can’t remember the last time I felt like anyone appreciated the work, only that if it wasn’t done, there would be reprimanding or belittling.  There is always reprimanding and belittling, but at least if the work gets done, then there is …less?  I’m not sure.  It’s not the healthiest atmosphere.  You just work, and you get your check, and you should be thankful to even have a job.

I started at my current job in March of 2007, in Department 1.  In January of 2010 I was moved to Department 2, amidst much chaos as a replacement for a coworker with medical issues.  In July of 2010, that coworker passed away.  In December 2010, our GM passed away.

We’ve always had an office staff of less than 10 people.  It’s very, very close.  Things got…strained.

I am still in Department 2, and have been told I’ll be promoted to management.  No concrete date, amount, or specific title have been given yet, though I’ve asked twice outright.  (The manager is retiring, they say, at the end of next year.)  We got a new corporate office and now the manager has an assistant from Department 1, and I still have no idea what’s going on with the promotion that I was told I was going to get.

This obviously makes me feel very secure and confident.

In February of 2015 we hired an employee to train under my coworker who would be retiring the following year. Retiring Coworker (RC1) worked directly with me since January of 2010, was my only coworker (excluding the manager), and we had a good system going for what it was. RC1 was extremely helpful and we were a solid team. Our job descriptions were different but our individual duties formed a circle – she needed my completed work to finish her job, and vice versa.

In January of 2016, Retiring Coworker retired, Replacement (trained-for-a-year) Coworker (RC2) moved into her spot, and Replacement Coworker’s sister (RCS) was hired for the specific reasons of “in case one of us has to go on vacation/be out”. RCS had a primary function of being an assistant to RC2, however I was told by my manager that yes, RCS was also able to help me with basic things (phones, copies, filing, etc). Note: there were now 2 full time people doing the work of 1 person, and I was getting no help with my workload from anyone. This included having to answer all the calls, all the time and help all the walk-ins, all the time.  In the span of one shift where I had an off-site meeting, I came back to 24 voicemails.

The very short version is that the two remaining coworkers (excluding the manager) were very adamant that my job is not their job (it’s not, but… we are a TINY office, and they sit right next to me in an open-office / walk-in-friendly environment), and thinking about this makes my entire body immediately tense up.

Side note: Memorial Day to Labor Day is our busy season, with 4th of July weekend being our yearly peak point.

The thought of having to do all that work myself, after the massive overload during Memorial Day Week, made me have nightmares and crying fits. I was about two breaths away from a breakdown.  I absolutely could not detach myself from work.

And so, after therapy and hard work and medication and asking for help and TELLING people I needed help and then EMAILING requests for help and the only thing changing was my pile of work getting larger, my stress leave for 6/28/16 – 8/9/16 was approved.

At first I considered sleeping for a week straight. Then I considered going on a very long solo road trip. Then I started thinking about how much I miss dance, but after some price checks and general reviews, Ginseng Yoga has once again earned my business on a daily basis. The studio is a delightful place of healing, and it’s helping me regain health and strength. It’s calming, it’s quiet, it’s what I needed.  I’m going to incorporate a Barre class into my schedule (my main plan, thwarted by gas prices, was to go to Xtend Barre) – and maybe once all of my fitness routines have turned into daily routines, I can go back to dancing again.  Presently?  Yoga feels right.

It’s been just about a week, and I feel like I can breathe a little now.

My nightmares aren’t every night, and don’t always involve work.

I take one to two yoga classes every day, and have been working hard at readjusting my diet. No daily fast food, no unplanned trips to Del Taco. More produce, more homemade food.  Less sugar, less caffeine.  Not much less, but less.

This time off is also helping me to adjust to my new medication; the side effects are a little troublesome.

I’m going to make efforts at posting regularly, in attempts to track my symptoms and side effects, but more in an attempt to remind myself that there really is life outside of paperwork. There really are good things out there, things that I enjoy that are healthy for me to do.

I just need to start somewhere.

Taste Test

For Thanksgiving we’re going to visit some friends, and I’ve been asked to bring an appetizer.  I’ve decided on kale chips and apple chips, both of which sound cheap and sophomoric, but they’re both actually quite delicious.  The kale chips were successfully batch-tested last week, and got a thumbs up from the husband who is notorious for hating most edible things green.  Their deliciousness factor was boosted by the fact that they were oven fresh, and the warmth added an extra depth, the way warm buttered popcorn is so much tastier than cool or room temperature popcorn.  Both great, but better when warm.

Today I hope to batch-test another run of kale and see how it holds up overnight.  Probably best not to put it in the fridge, but it only took twelve minutes to make one pan so that can always be made the morning of.  I’ll also need to find a container large enough to hold both appetizers, as there should be enough for ten people.

The apple chips are from this glorious recipe, crafted by my talented friend Denice, whom you should prepare to hate.  My first batch came out nothing like her batch, beautifully brown and professional looking.  My first batch came out looking like perfectly even little slices of charcoal, and I don’t know what her oven runs on (besides magic) but cooking those bad boys for half an hour at three-fitty was definitely not the best approach for what I did.

Note: I had to use tinfoil, as I was out of non-stick spray.

Next batch: took a dozen slightly larger slices, re-seasoned (sea salt, cinnamon sugar, nutmeg) and sprinkled liberally but evenly, and put them in for ten minutes at 350.

That batch came out better – there was an interesting texture, similar to the bags of dried apple slices you can buy, but they were still mostly stuck to the tinfoil.

So I’m off to buy more apples and kale and non-stick spray and donate books and get an eye exam and also maybe hopefully new glasses and ship a Super Secret Package, and tonight I’ll test more stuff.  I should also be making a list of stuff to test in the (new!!!) crock pot, as *that* in itself will be an adventure, because I’ve never used one.

Notes for the next batch of apples:
– slice thicker
– less salt
– nonstick spray
– flip half the batch at 6 minutes

Please let it come out looking mostly like this:

I like kale, kale-y, kale-y, kale.

KALE!

So, I’m a little behind on the Kale Train.  When green smoothies started taking over the planet a couple years back, people swore by it.  Kale, KALE!, they said. You put that leaf in your mouth, you’re gonna rule the world.  Even though it’s kin to the cauliflower, which I hate because all I can think of (when thinking of cauliflower) is the steamy smell of it floating through my house growing up.  It just smelled….bland.  If aging yellow had a smell, that’d be it – hot, bland, and not nice.  These days I eat many MANY types of fruits and veggies, but cauliflower is one I’m putting my foot down on.

I always enjoy trying new recipes to keep up my motivation for healthy eating.  The more delicious stuff is, the more likely I am to eat it until I get burned out.  During our yearly bout of hot, where summer extends its reach into October and everyone forgets why they moved here, I tend to eat lots of salad-style items and things that require minimal cooking.  My go-to recipe was one I discovered while visiting a friend over Memorial Day weekend, and has now been adjusted to my own personal preference.  I emailed it over to a friend, so here’s Recipe #1:

“My current favorite recipe is quick, easy, summery, delicious, healthy, and totally vegan if that last bit is important at all.  It’s also kind of addictive.

Summer Quinoa Salad [you can make a giant batch ahead of time]
Ingredients:
quinoa
heirloom tomatoes
cherry tomatoes (or whatever those little baby red and orange ones are)
black olives NO PITS
limes (minimum 2)
garlic powder
celery salt
black pepper
sweet onion

1) Make a bunch of quinoa.
…a] 2 cups water + 1 cup quinoa is a decent size serving for one meal
…b] combine the water and quinoa in a regular pot, bring to a boil
…c] when it starts to boil (usually about 7 minutes) bring the heat down super low and cover the pot

…d] another six minutes or so and the quinoa will start to turn translucent and you’ll see the spirals come out. it’s done then.
…e] at this point the water will have mostly boiled off. stir it all up, drain any remaining water

2) Combine the quinoa into a big mixing bowl with a few dashes of black pepper, garlic powder, and celery salt.  Stir it all up.
3) Cover the mix and pop it into the fridge overnight.

THE NEXT DAY…
the quinoa should be nice and cold, and have a mild seasoning flavor.
4) Prep the heirloom tomatoes

…a] chop them up into medium-sized chunks, a fist-sized tomato should give you two handfuls when you’re done. don’t dice it.

5) Prep the olives
…a] the canned black olives work just fine; chop into chunks.

7) Prep the sweet onion
…a] dice the crap out of it
…b] you can substitute using those pre-minced onion in the seasoning bottles if needed

8) Limes!
…a] 2 limes for every 1 cup of quinoa you’ve used.  Squeeze the limes into the quinoa, stir.  Taste test. The flavor should be cold and bright, not overpowering.

9) All the other stuff!
…a] dump in your tomato chunks / tomatoes / black olives
…b] maybe add some mozzarella if you’re feeling the cheese need
…c] stir it all up

10) OM NOM NOM

 

So, there’s that.  I’ve also recently been buying bundles of kale but have been scared to try it, thinking it would be bitter and terrifying and taste of dirt.  You guys, color me effing WRONG, because it’s fantastic!  I even am okay with it raw, although there is a more defined bitter taste then.  However if you chop it up finely enough and blend it with enough other stuff, you’ll be fine.

That said, I’d like to tell you YOU CAN MAKE KALE TASTE LIKE POTATO CHIPS.

What’s this wizardry, you ask?

Well, I found this recipe (http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2013/06/panfried-kale/) which looked simple enough, and decided today was the day kale was going in my mouth.

I have a gas stove, so this was over fire on top, I didn’t try baking it (although that’s apparently great as well).   From my Facebook post:

  • I broke up a bunch of kale, drizzled olive oil over it, tossed in a handful of garlic powder, and covered it for about three-ish minutes, or however long it took to turn bright green. Then you flip it around a bunch, and during this time I also cut up a bunch of tomatoes and mozzarella for a little side dish thing. By then the kale was starting to saute nicely and had some crispy brown edges going, so I figured it was done at that point.

That. Was. Delicious.  The crispy brown parts tasted like pop chips. Oh my goodness gracious.  And now I understand the love of Baked Kale in replacing potato chips, and when the heat breaks I’ll be doing that.

Now, tonight’s kale did not come out awesomely. I had a bunch of reddish kale, added a healthy splash of veggie oil over it, then started chopping tomatoes and avocados while the kale was covered and sauteing in the oil.  Squeezed 1 whole lemon and 2 limons, added a spoonful of butter to the juice, and warmed it up in a skillet until the butter had melted.  At this point the kale had wilted up nicely, so I dumped all the juice in and stirred it all around for a minute or so.  All done – add it to a bowl with your tomatoes and avocados.

Ladies and gentlemen, do NOT use that much juice unless you are a fan of biting into a full lemon.  Argh!  I was able to eat about half of my bowl of kale, but the lemon juice taste was really putting me off.  Overkill.  That said, now I know better.

I made that little concoction after seeing this:  Babble.com’s recipe for a summer salad of wilted kale and tomato.

Photo courtesy of babble.com

For a moment I thought I spied some asparagus in there, which – when done properly with just the right seasoning of black pepper – would probably launch this bad boy into the most delicious realms of outer space.

So, test it out, have yourself some healthy, easy, quick meals, and thank me later.  And if you’re still scared of kale – don’t be!! If you like eating spinach / romaine / salad mix / lettuce / etc, this will give you that great feeling with good texture.  And apparently energy, which is a nice little bonus I’m feeling about twenty minutes after eating half a bowl.

Yum!

Yardwork and Moving Forward

It’s been a busy weekend for me.  Got things done around the house, plotted out World Domination, and Cleared The Yard (phase 1).  My fingernails hurt.  That reminds me …it’s summer now, which means the nails need cut down and manicured.  Long manicured nails don’t work for me in summer – too many things going on that result in wrecking said manicure.  Therefore it’s time to chop ’em off, clean up the edges all nicely, and go on about my business.

This weekend’s business involved a lot of hard work that I’m paying for today, but I like the progress that was made.

I started on The Backyard.

Before:

1

More ‘before’, with Darnell (the random neighborhood cat) pictured in top right.2

Six hours later, this is what I accomplished with a rake and shovel:

3

4

5
Here’s a shot looking out from my bedroom window. Note the missing iceplant.
There was also a line of fake plastic rocks that is now MIA.

5

Today, I hurt. Last night I hurt so much that I woke up in the middle of the night wanting to vomit from how painful my arms felt.  No vomiting occurred, thank goodness.

The photo above shows how I got a large section almost completely cleared. The goal is to get the rest of that stuff pulled up so it’s just back to bare dirt.  Now I’m planning my next step, and I think this is how it will work out:

7

Top-down view, fence at the top, hopefully vegetable planters and a compost box will be off at the left.  Potted plants – probably jasmine – I want to grow up to cover the fence; at least a large portion of it that isn’t currently covered.  In between, railroad-tie-style rectangular beams of wood will split up the yard while providing something similar to tiers.

Like this, but using rock filler instead of sod:

The yard slants down in kind of a curve, and has a fairly steep grade.  The section of squiggles along the bottom of the drawing would be that red bark/mulch stuff.  The top section (top right in drawing) will be flat enough for a nice patio area, and then just have to figure out if it would look better with a tarp cover or a pergola cover.

Awwww:

 

My goal is not to spend a lot of money, just to make something inexpensive that’s enjoyable for us while we’re living here and also improve the value when we sell.  Any additional reading/art nooks I can create in the meantime… thumbs up. :)

Them Orange Handcuffs

I had the My Pet Monster. I had the cuffs. And this is AWESOME.

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