January 2018

As you probably have noticed if you’ve been around for a while, the last two weeks have shown a marked decrease in my posts on the blog. Last year, I was doing a pretty great 6-posts-a-week pace. I tuned it down to 4 a week for the start of the new year, and this week… well, this makes two. Oops.

Realistically, I have not made the time to blog lately. I’ve let regular work and other writing crowd it out, but those are mostly excuses. My bigger issue is that I become like a sleepy bear at some point in the winter. There is a whole side of me that just wants to be curled up in the enormous tiger-print blanket my sister got me for my last birthday. It doesn’t hurt that there have been a lot of good movies available at the library lately, but for the most part, it is because I just don’t have a lot of gumption.

Gumption is such a Southern word, but it’s such a serious part of my life these days: being an adult seems to be a constant balance of doing things because they must be done and (whenever possible) having the gumption to do things even when they aren’t already crisis-level necessary. Lately, I’ve got enough energy each day to do what I have to do, but I think I’m like a lot of other people in that I don’t have a lot left at the end of the day for the things I want: community committee meetings, networking events, game nights, getting things done around the house.

I alternate between being okay with myself for this and thinking that everyone else is motivating themselves in spite of how cold and dark it is this time of year. One nice thing is that on weekends, we’ve been really devoting time to our personal projects around the house, since getting out is a pain with all the snow.

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I have enjoyed every morsel of Gobble Box, though when we did steak again this week, I actually only ate a little bit of it. I have to face it: I’m not a steak girl. I did save the rest of it for leftovers in Husband’s lunch, since he really loved it. It’s nice that we’re now people who can have steak once every month or two, and it’s nice that it is just one of the options in the food delivery lists.

What got me, however, was the gratin broccoli and cauliflower. I had had au gratin potatoes, which are heavenly and creamy and cheesy, but since potatoes somewhat fall in that ‘mostly starch, less vegetable’ category, I always thought of it as a decadent side. Granted, putting the same cream and a crust of tasty breadcrumbs doesn’t make these veggies low calorie, but I cannot tell you how cozy it is to eat a pile of cauliflower and broccoli while focusing on all that warm and rich sauce. This version had slivered almonds on top for crunch too, which means it had some of that “healthy fat” and nutrients you get from tree nuts.

Basically, what would have been an “eh” meal for me without Husband happily commenting on the steak, became a really wonderful and surprisingly healthy meal for me. I pretty much steer clear of cauliflower and broccoli on a typical day, so the nutrients they bring to the table are almost never in my body. Much like a parent disguising good food in exciting packages to make a toddler try it, if you package my veggies in a nutty cream sauce, I guess I wolf them down. The nice thing, however, is that with the automatic “portion control” of the Gobble box, I didn’t make way more sauce than necessary, and just had enough on there to coat the veggies without pooling all over.

Basically, I’m hooked. If you want to try Gobble Box for Free, you can with this link, and while this one took us a little longer than 15 minutes, it was still an astoundingly fast meal for how delicious it ended up being.

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We wanted to do something valuable with the motivation of January, and we knew that there was a lot we could consider but have already tried to budget well. So this month, we went pretty extreme: other than mortgage and fixed bills, we’re only using cash this month.

Why? That’s a good question. It turns out, people are more willing to spend money when they only are using plastic than when they spend cash. It feels more finite to have an actual pile of twenty dollar bills for the month than to have a certain amount in a bank account and just swipe a card all month. It’s a psychological thing,

So we figured out how much we were willing to spend in a month for each budget category, a bit for groceries, a bit for gas, etc. We put that much cash into an envelope and labeled it. We figured that this way, we have a physical budget: if we do something that costs more than what is in one envelope, we’ll have to get it from another envelope, and thus reduce spending in that category.

Granted, it is pretty artificial since we still have cards we could use, but the hope is that we’ll spend less than usual and think more about what we are spending money on. Already, we’ve put off a few non-essential purchases because we didn’t want to run low on cash, so I think some of the needs will go away as well.

If something comes up that we need to address without cash, we’ll do it, but the goal is to become more aware of our spending so that we keep from letting our spending slowly creep higher and higher. Maybe it isn’t necessary, but we’re trying it to see if there is anything to learn!

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The Best Self Journal comes with this beautiful little poster that I have, regretfully, not used yet – a part of me wants to use it for another 13 weeks after this journal is over, because, honestly, I’m seeing results. The poster, however, makes me think about how, when we are in the middle of a long challenge, we sometimes don’t step back and see the big picture.

I’m in week 9, guys. I’ve scaled up my writing a lot in that time (I mean A LOT. This weekend was mostly writing, chill time with Husband, and throwing a potluck dinner). I’ve taken two trips specifically to spend time with family and another trip to see an old friend, which really fulfill my goal of making it my priority to spend time with friends and family. Getting Christmas cards out and finding small gifts for our friends here in town was also a part of that.

As we start the year, and the weather has turned bitterly cold pretty much everywhere, I’m reminded that sometimes, we need to step back and say, “this is happening!” Small changes, a little bit at a time, with daily tasks and targets. I’m still making sure there is broccoli on my plate. I’m still gritting my teeth and braving the wind as I run out to go to the gym. Not every day do I achieve something big, but looking at this poster makes me think about the big picture in a way that each individual day in the journal does not.

There is still plenty to achieve, and as my day job ramps up in earnest this week, I’m mostly just trying to make sure I fulfill my duties, not my stretch dreams. Still, I hope you find a moment this week to step back and look at the positive things you’ve accomplished. You, like me, are more than halfway there.

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IMG_20180106_142641So, I made the amazing Gobble Box‘s version of Chicken Korma. This looked so good in the picture, and they said it would take 15 minutes to make. I’m pretty cynical, so I assumed it was an exaggeration.

The key with Gobble Box, I’m realizing, is that they really do the work for you. My chicken came pre-cubed, the beans had no stringy ends and just needed to be cut down a bit. The rice only needed 2 minutes total in the microwave, and the sauce was pre-made. This meal, I tell you, was magic.

The only modification I made was to the naan bread, which I brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with garlic powder before putting it in a hot oven to toast. The chicken and beans cooked easily and simmered gently in the sauce while I got everything ready. Even the cashews and cilantro on top took only seconds to put together.

The flavor was, well, chicken korma – deliciously smooth and sweet, pairing perfectly with the coconut rice and the crunch of a cashew. I used only half of the curry powder packet, worrying I was adding too much heat, but I could have easily used the whole thing to coat the outside of the chicken pieces. We had one serving left only because we showed restraint, but Husband and I each ate heaping portions so this meal makes plenty: it claims 1100 calories per serving, and I believe them.

If you are looking for a meal that shows you every ingredient so that you can make it again with grocery store ingredients, this may not be the box for you; I don’t know how the coconut rice was prepared before so I couldn’t replicate it, and the sauce is a mystery. However, if you want REALLY tasty, really fast food, Gobble Box is evidently your answer.

If you want to try a box and decide for yourself, this link will send you a free box; it is different enough from other subscription boxes that I’d say I recommend it!

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Neil Gaiman is coming to speak in my city in the upcoming months. For those of you who don’t know him, he writes very fantastical and interesting stories (Sandman, Stardust, Coraline) and has said a lot about living the creative life. I use one of his metaphors all the time: in his early career, he says he chose to pursue a project if it brought him “closer to the mountain,” with the mountain being the chance to write stories for a living. So, early on, it made sense to take any kind of writing job because it brought him closer to the mountain, but once he’d become more well-known, he needed to be choosier, because some projects were actually not creative and often not even lucrative, so why walk away from the mountain just to take all projects?

He also mentions that sometimes the problems of success are even harder than the problems of failure. I don’t know that I agree (failure is brutal, despite the fact that I want to be the kind of person who is resilient against failure), though he points out that at some point in his career he was answering so much email that he wasn’t getting to do the projects he loves. I can definitely sympathize with such a problem, despite not being a famous author.

2018 finds me at a crossroads: I’m not a famous journalist or a fancy blogger. What I am, however, is a freelance writer who still has a 45-hour-a-week day job, at a time when I’m finally getting more writing work than I can possibly do. I’m having to make the choices of success, the ones where I turn some things down despite the fact that technically, if I did no fun things and never spoke to my husband and lived only to write, I could do them all.

The mountain, for me, isn’t writing stories for a living. It’s more holistic than that: it’s having work in writing that brings me joy and doesn’t overload me with deadline stress. It’s making enough money to feel free and to feel like I’m saving some, but not enough to be a big shot. I have to keep these things in mind even as I am trying to dig a little deeper and find more inspiration to see where this “writing thing” might take me. It is, as always, a balance to figure out.

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IMG_20180104_194649.jpgI had almost forgotten, in the thick of returning to work this week, that I’d signed up to try a new subscription box this week: Gobble. I assume that my HelloFresh posts triggered someone’s ad campaigns and started sending me all kinds of subscription boxes to try, and when I looked at Gobble’s website, the thing that stood out were the more ethnic options: vegetable korma? Seared paneer? Yes, these are both Indian-inspired, but come on – I’ve wished I could make good Indian food forever.

So I went through the sign up and they told me, because of holidays, my first box would arrive in January. So I went about forgetting it existed! This week, after we’d gotten pretty low on groceries, I was delighted to get my box full of ingredients. The packaging is quite simple – HelloFresh and Blue Apron both put everything in these fancy brown-paper bags and boxes. I liked that each meal was self-contained, except the meat, and in a plastic zip-lock bag so that nothing leaked.

The delightful part for me, however, was the one thing we were able to eat that first night: a sample baggie with two frozen chocolate chip cookie dough balls! We just had to heat the oven and put them in and after 15 minutes, we had bakery-style chocolate chip cookies! Obviously, this small sample was probably to get us to add a bigger batch of cookie dough balls to a future order, but goodness gracious, the delight of having cookie dough you didn’t expect in a box full of food… heaven.

Today I’m making the first meal, so I’ll have to publish another post with the actual results; however, they promise one pan and 15 minute meals. I won’t mind if those are marketing exaggerations, but it would be pretty impressive if they work. If you too want to try Gobble, they actually gave me a link to send you a free box, if you are curious as well. Comment with pictures and the verdict when you try it!

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I started this blog in September, and I have to say: I love it. I feel comfortable being all my hopeful self and all my totally-frazzled self in this space. Thanks for reading.

If you are new, here are a few of my favorite posts from 2017, with memories and thoughts that I hope will stick with me going into 2018.

Zipline Adventure and Bravery Practice

My 7-Day Work-Thoughts Detox

Surviving the Season of Nibbles!

Planner Review: Get to Work Book

Feeling 22: What really happens between early and late 20’s

Financial Friday: If you aren’t making money, are you building capital?

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IMG_20171029_131845Goals are usually easier to achieve when they are SMART; you know, specific, measurable, actionable… all those things that make a clear distinction between achieving the goal and not quite making it. Despite those being some of the best kinds of goals, the last 6 of my “18 in 2018” goals are actually… not SMART. They are goals for my mindset. While I will certainly keep trying to write about them in my Best Self Journal, they don’t break down neatly into tasks and targets.

Instead, mindset goals are more about the person I want to be, regardless of the challenges that face me in 2018. I cannot narrow it down to just a few traits, but the ones I feel I can use the most improvement are these:

Quick at Recovering: I have a tendency to dwell on my failures and poor behavior, and I want to get better at bouncing back quickly.
Proactive: When I see something that needs doing, I want to just leap into action rather than waiting for someone else to get things done.
Good Listener: Too often I fear I am thinking about my own problems and issues when I should be paying attention to friends and family. I want to listen better.
Uni-tasking: I want to get better at focusing on a task rather than having to be exercising/planning/journaling/cooking/cleaning all at the same time. This also includes becoming less dependent on my cell phone.
Bravery: I’ve talked about this before, but I’m a pretty timid person when it comes to risks, and when the risk warrants it, I want to push past that fear and get to what is on the other side.
Dancier: I don’t know how this made it into this list,  but I don’t want to get rid of it. I don’t dance enough. I want to dance when I’m cooking dinner, and I want to take a Zumba dance class at the gym, and I want to go out swing dancing or salsa dancing or something. This only counts as a mindset because I usually don’t dance because most adults just don’t make space for dancing; I don’t want to think that way. I want to make it happen, even if I look completely goofy doing it.

 

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