Thursday, December 16, 2010

If Only They Had People Power, Too...

This product rocks.  If I don't win it in Super Jenn's Give Away I'm totally buying it.

iGo PS00273-0001 Charge Anywhere Universal Power Extender (Black)

Now, if only they had people power, too... There are some days I'm just so run down at the end of the day...

Monday, December 6, 2010

Kid Stuff

Kids grow so fast, and even though some items like scarves and hats can be reused from year to year, now is a great time to check on wear and tear and if it still fits.  Consider donating gently used items to your child's school or pass them on with  High value items can be sold at a consignment store, eBay, or through  Whatever you do, stay warm!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Dead Batteries

I really enjoy checking in on foursquare and gowalla.  Unfortunately the internal GPS runs my phone battery down in a heartbeat.  My charger was a 1/2 mile hike away so I had to live with a dead phone. 

Life is kind of like that, too.  We can sometimes do the things we really enjoy, but we have to see if the toll they take on our mental, physical, and spiritual batteries is worth it.  

And sometimes we can get an external boost.  I need to break down and finally buy the iGo charger that @superjennblogs raves about.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Listen to Your Self

I had a chiropractor appointment this morning. These interactions are very interesting to me as she's reintroducing me to a person I've known for years: me. My chiropractor serves as a combination translator and medium for my body. She takes what I'm feeling (I feel bad) and clarifies it (where, when, how bad). She also has me move in certain ways and then listen to my body to see what it tells her.

I've been very insensitive.

That's the only conclusion I can come to. Some of the "I feel bad" sensations I can clearly attribute to the collision. Some of the "I feel bad" sensations I only notice when she has me pay attention and feel for them. It really makes me wonder what other messages my body has been sending me that I haven't been paying attention to.

Thanks to her, I've realized I need to schedule more conversations with myself.

I used to meditate fairly regularly. I had some deep relaxation sessions on my mp3 player and I'd use the time during kid practices or my lunch to just completely and totally immerse myself in my breath. It really helped me refresh and renew my focus. It looks like it might be time to start meditating again.

I'll look for the links to the meditation podcasts I used to use. If I can find them again I'll share them in the comments.

Oh, and my chiropractor has one more very important job: she makes me feel better.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Busy = Happy?

I think I'm happiest when I'm busiest. With a few footnotes...

  • I need to be working on something I believe in
  • I need to maintain my work/life balance

Other than that, life never seems quite so good as when I'm knee deep in stuff to do. It even makes the infrequent days on the beach so much sweeter because I can appreciate the feel of a job well done.

I hope you are happy with the level of busy-ness that today finds you at.
Do the Pieces Fit Together in Your Life?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Making My Own Touch Screen Gloves- Take 1

180s Women's Weekender Tectouch Glove,Black,Medium
Tectouch Gloves
I love my phone. I hardly go anywhere without it. But there's a small problem. It's getting cold outside and my hands really hurt when the temperature drops. I'd love to buy a pair of touch screen gloves, but I'm a little on the cheap side (If you're not, check these out!) I read this Instructables post a while back and have been planning to make my own touch screen gloves.

Mise En Place
Gloves, Thread, Needle, Phone
I was so excited about this project because I figured it was a perfect project to blog, too. It's simple, it's a good way for me to demonstrate some of my living with ADD steps, it's tech-y, and I figured it would also photograph well.

I've learned that it's a really good idea for me to practice Mise En Place aka "Everything Set Up." The process of gathering my materials and getting them in one spot seems to center my mind. It also ensures that I have what I need at hand. Today that meant getting my gloves, the roll of thread, and a needle. I put my phone in the pic because I knew I'd be testing the gloves on the phone.

Didn't Work :(
It Didn't Work!
A couple of quick stitches and I was ready to go!

Actually, I wasn't. Even though I followed the Instructables guide, my "new" touch screen gloves didn't work.

And I'm still blogging it.

I'm taking this as my daily lesson in humility. I figure it's much more interesting than telling you about how I messed up dinner because I forgot to get the super important ingredient that was whole reason I went to the grocery store in the first place. Plus that kind of story doesn't have cool pics.

What? Still reading? Well, as you probably expected, there's more to this story. I found a neat overview of the different types of Conductive Thread at Fashioning Technology. As for me, I'm thinking about buying a 10 ft thread card from Lamé Lifesaver.

That's it for today. Have fun and thanks to #NaBloPoMo I'll see you tomorrow, probably right around this same time.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sunday is Funday

More pics from the photo contest.  He's not entering these, and I know they're not perfect, but it warmed my heart that my son stopped to smell the roses.
Blinded by the Brilliance

A Rose by Any Name Would Smell as Sweet
I hope you have a wonderful weekend

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Picture My Day

I read this article earlier this week and by chance ran into one of the organizers at lunch the next day. I've been wanting to get to know the island better, and participating in the SI 350 photography contest seemed like a great way to do it.

The photos have to be taken at one of the Staten Island locations listed at and submitted by midnight Sunday 11/14/2010.

Since I had to be out and about on Saturday (chiropractor's appointment really unkinked my shoulders!), we grabbed a camera on the way out the door and got snap happy as we did our errands.

It was a gorgeous day to be in New York City and these are a couple of my favorite shots:

Gargoyle at Work
I've always had a thing for Gargoyles.  I may start a photo collection :)

On a clear day you can see forever
I see this bridge every morning and evening when I'm out walking the dog.  Today was so beautifully clear I just had to get a shot

Diamonds in the Sky
This is my absolute fave.
Kiddo will be picking some of his favorite shots and entering them tomorrow.  Wish him luck!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Sleep? What's that?

It's a vicious cycle: I fall behind on life and start cutting into my sleep time so I can catch up.  Then I'm so rough around the edges that I can't keep up.  Giving up even more sleep just makes me less effective and then...

If I'm lucky, a weekend comes along and I get to catch up on that delightful thing we call sleep. 

If I'm not so lucky I survive on coffee.  

I'm tucked into bed and blogging this on my phone.  In about one minute I'm going to put this down and catch some shuteye.  

Looks like I'm getting lucky tonight. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I Get It

Malcolm Gladwell wrote in Outliers that it takes 10,000 hours or approximately 10 years to get really good at something. I'm pretty hard headed, so it might take me an extra 5,000 hours. But I think I'm starting to get it now.

You have to understand first of all that sometimes my brain amazes me. The other day I punched in the number of an old high school friend...even though I'd last dialed that number in 1992. And sometimes my brain disappoints me, like when I forget what I came into the kitchen to get even though it's just a few steps away from the living room.

Finally "getting it" also means that I'm not arguing with myself that I oughta know this already. It means accepting that for me it sometimes takes a little bit more effort. Or a lot.

I get that I have to write everything down or it may not stick in my brain.

I get that I need to have a combination of a distraction and a focal point to get repetitive tasks done. Hello Podcast!

I get that I miss interpersonal cues. For me to get a message I either have to have all my active listening skills set to "ON" or have someone hit me over the head with a 2x4. The good news is that after 15000 hours of practice I'm getting better at this. The bad news is that it's still work, and it probably always will be.

I get that sometimes I have trouble stopping myself. Those are the days when it's better to go shopping at the flea market than at the mall.
I get that adding people to my mix increases my stamina and enthusiasm. If Aunt Polly asked me to whitewash the fence by myself I'd totally pull a Tom Sawyer and try to get out of it. Well, sorta.* But if I'm working with someone else I'm like the energizer bunny and just keep going and going.

I get that I have no concept of time. Not only does everything have to go on my calendar, I have to set every single reminder option so that time doesn't get away from me.

Most of all, after 15,000 hours of turning on my ears and using my calendar and grocery shopping list and doing a load of laundry a day and checking for my keys every time I walk through a door ... I get that this is who I am and that I'm really good at being me. You see, along with the distraction comes some really cool creativity and amazing energy. Since everything new draws my attention I've had the chance to meet all kinds of really cool people and do some really neat things. I am so thankful that I've been able to remain positive through everything. Even though I haven't always been thrilled with every thing that has come my way, things really work out once you rub a little persistence, creativity, and positive energy on it.
And I finally get it.
*I couldn't exactly do like Tom and collect marbles and a dead cat while my friends whitewashed the fence. But I might tweet about it

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Oh My!

Guinea Pigs and Oscars and Pythons and Boas and Pyrenees and Iguanas and Ferrets and Owtcharkas and Crawdads Oh My!

I may be addicted to twitter, but someone in my house has a pet addiction. Over the years this unnamed person has adopted, fostered, raised, bred and in a few cases barely tolerated just about every kind of pet known to man. For the most part none of these pets were bought, they sort of came our way as people we knew moved away or had changes in their living situations. In one case it was literally saved from the boiling pot.

Several intrepid culinary adventurers got together and had two massive bags of live New Orleans crayfish delivered to our local airport. The gentlemen proceeded from the airport to the home of the lucky hosts where they then dumped the whole bag into the boiling water.

Except for one plucky fellow who held onto the mesh bag with all his might.

A certain young scamp pleaded for the life of the crustacean and that night introduced the mudbug to his new life in a small fish bowl.

By the next morning all the original inhabitants had fallen prey to the new predator in the bowl. We began regular trips to procure feeder fish for the ravenous creature until one day we came home to an empty bowl.

I need to stop here for a second. Don't get me wrong, I love my 100 lb South Russian Owtcharka pound puppy. Ferrets are still my absolute favorite pet. But after a while I find that I have things to do that keep me from sitting in front of a cage or a tank and watching a python stalk a feeder rat or a male Flame Tail cichlid dance for the female. You know, things like laundry and dishes and filing and lawn mowing and sweeping and vacuuming. Little things, really, they just have to be done over and over and over again.

The other thing I try to do to make the repetitive tasks go a little faster is catch up on phone calls. It's not an uncommon sight to see me with a phone headset on and a basket of laundry going up and down the stairs.

On this particular evening I brushed past the pet detectives and brought in the last load of groceries. As I did so I pulled on my phone headset to return a call. Then I made a quick stop in the bedroom to kick off my shoes, grab the dirty laundry, and finally a trip downstairs to empty out the dryer and get a fresh load going.

As I was pulling out the clean dry laundry I felt something tickling my toes. I looked down and saw what I thought was the biggest scorpion on earth trying to get a hold of my big toe. I screamed with all the breath in my lungs. I scrambled backwards and was only stopped by the doorframe. Above me I could hear my stalwart heroes thundering towards the stairs to see what was distressing me. As I drew in another deep breath to scream I realized that I recognized the wayward wanderer. With my next breath I bellowed "WHY IS THERE A CRAWFISH UNDER MY DRYER?!"

I could hear the footsteps on the stairs slow. I heard a chuckle and "So that's where he went"

I was not amused.

Let me say this again. With emphasis.

I. Was. Not. Amused.

In other news, apparently I terrified my friend and neighbor. In the middle of our phone conversation she heard me scream bloody murder and then the phone went dead. Just as she was debating whether she should call 911 directly or walk over to check on me I called back to explain the situation. Unlike me she was greatly amused. and relieved.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to read my blog. And if a small pet ever turns up missing from your house, check under your dryer, especially if it's cold blooded.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

It's a Hard Knock Life

Today was a rough day. It was totally a climb back into bed and pull the covers over your head kind of day. I definitely felt like calling it quits and doing just that multiple times. And yet I didn't.

Did I accomplish anything? I don't know. I'm pretty sure I made a positive impact in the lives of some high school students, and I'm fairly certain that I kept our family from making a bad financial decision. I took steps to preserve some memories of my son's school life and I performed a few random acts of kindness here and there.

Overall, I'd say I did good.

But it wasn't fun.

If the balance sheet is on the positive side at the end of the day but you feel like crap, do you call that a good day?

If you have a great day with lots of laughter, but you know you'll pay for it tomorrow, is that a bad day?

I wish I knew the answers.

And so I leave you with the song that's been running through my head all day. I hope your bed is warm, and that you have a loved one or three to kiss goodnight, and even if you feel it's a hard knock life that you indeed keep putting up a fight instead of throwing the towel in.

It's a Hard Knock Life

It's the hard-knock life for us!
It's the hard-knock life for us!

'Steada treated,

We get tricked!

'Steada kisses,

We get kicked!

It's the hard-knock life!
Got no folks to speak of, so,
It's the hard-knock row we how!

Cotton blankets,

'Steada of wool!

Empty Bellies

'Steada of full!

It's the hard-knock life!

Don't if feel like the wind is always howl'n?

Don't it seem like there's never any light!

Once a day, don't you wanna throw the towel in?

It's easier than puttin' up a fight.

No one's there when your dreams at night get creepy!
No one cares if you grow...of if you shrink!
No one dries when your eyes get wet an' weepy!

From all the cryin' you would think this place's a sink!
Empty belly life!
Rotten smelly life!
Full of sorrow life!
No tomorrow life!

Santa Claus we never see

Santa Claus, what's that?
Who's he?

No one cares for you a smidge
When you're in an orphanage!

(Making a whistling sound and imitating Miss. Hannigan)
You'll stay up till this dump shines
like the top of the Chrysler Building.

Yank the whiskers from her chin
Jab her with a safety Pin
Make her drink a mickey finn
I love you, Miss Hannigan

(whistle) Get to work!
(whistle) Strip them beds!
(whistle) I said get to work!

It's the hard-knock life for us
It's the hard-knock life for us
No one cares for you a smidge
When your in an orphanage
It's the hard-knock life
It's the hard-knock life
It's the hard-knock life!

#NaBloPoMo Rocks

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Support of a Forest

I read voraciously.  I love that my phone allows me to read anywhere I go at any hour of the day or night.  The drawback is that I don't always know where I read or heard stories. This is one story that I would love to be able to track the origin of.

The story of the majestic oak tree is very powerful for me.  We are humbled by the ancient gnarled tree that grows on the mountain top.  Buffeted by wind and clinging to the bare rocky soil with every one of its twisted roots it somehow manages to eke out an existence at the very edge, sometimes for hundreds of years.  Yet its twisted and knotty wood is useless to the carpenter.  The carpenter seeks the long tall trees that live in the forest.  Forced by each other to stretch for the light, the wood of the forest tree is smooth and knot free.  The trees protect each other from wind and storms by their sheer numbers, and their interlocking branches and roots provide food and shelter for all manner of wildlife. Each year their falling leaves contribute to the fertile soil and help start the cycle all over again.

I believe that people are kind of like the trees in the forest in that we need each other to reach our fullest potential.  Alone at the edge of the mountain it is too easy to curl into ourselves and become twisted and immersed in our own survival.  It is in the company of others that we reach for the light, support those around us, and nurture those that come after us.  

Unlike trees, we people can move around and find a forest to join or build our own from scratch.  With our recent move I'm currently looking for a new community that will help me stretch out and reach for the light.  I'm very thankful that I have such a great online "forest", too.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Our church takes the kids on a museum or cultural experience the first Sunday of every month.  This month we spent a couple of hours at the Staten Island Museum learning about their collections. The Museum was founded 128 years ago by a group of amateur naturalists with an astounding interest in education and study - local history, art, and more. The museum is the last remaining interdisciplinary general interest museum left in New York City.  It's way cool.

Taxonomy Worksheet. I sorted by shape :) 
The sheer number of varied items that the museum has is boggling.  The director, Diane Matyas, worked with the young and the young at heart in attendance to explain how items are sorted into categories. She gave each of us a big pile of candy and a taxonomy worksheet.  We spent some time talking about how different items can be categorized, as well as about visible and invisible characteristics (like how the candy tastes!)

I was amazed at how similarities and differences jumped out at me once I some structure in front of me.  Next time I clean out a junk drawer or the hall closet I'll use something similar to help bring order to the chaos.

Oh yeah, and taxonomy is the science of sorting. How cool is that :)

Saturday, November 6, 2010


I'm sore from tip to toe.

One thing that is very ironic is that usually I can't focus on anything.  Pain doesn't go away for things like ADD though.  It yanks your attention right back to - ow - hold on, it's calling my name.

The impact was on the driver's side of the vehicle, and the side airbags deployed.  I have a colorful bruise on my left arm and I can feel a swathe along the left side of my back that is probably doing a rainbow impression, too.  I haven't looked at it yet.  Yes Jenn, I will go in and get checked out.

Have I mentioned how happy I am that we're doing #NaBloPoMo this year instead of #NaNoWriMo?  I don't think I could create any fiction at all this year.  Maybe next year I'll just write a daily journal.  The last three Novembers have been far more twisty and turny than any fiction I've ever read.

Now if you'll please excuse me, I'm going to go conduct some research on the effectiveness of Ibuprofen, Aspirin and their relatives Tylenol and Aleve. One at a time, of course.

Surfing Sandbar Style
I'd much rather be at the Sandbar.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Smashing Pumpkins

I've been grumbling lately about how my cell phone always runs out of juice part way through the day and how all my stuff is in storage and I need a winter coat and how I don't know anyone here. My car isn't getting the mileage I expected when I bought it, none of my shoes are comfortable enough to walk the 1/2 mile to work every day, grumble grumble grumble. It wasn't a full on pity party, but I had definitely started hanging the decorations.

< * C R A S H * >

On the way home from my son's school we were hit by another car. My side airbags deployed. My son called out "I'm ok"

< * The Dust Settles *>

I noticed powder in the air and on the dash from the airbags. I called 911, I got out to check on the other car. It was freezing outside, so I pulled my new coat out of the shopping bag. Yeah, that's right. Less than an hour before I had bought a knee length 100% wool coat with a delicious collar that curved up around my ears. My dad recently sent a care package with a pair of wool lined leather gloves and I pulled them out of the glove compartment where they'd been waiting for the really cold weather to hit. I was warm and cozy as we walked up and down looking at the cars and calling our insurance agents and in general wishing we were anywhere else but there.

< *Waiting * >

And then we waited. And waited. and waited some more. I was thankful that I was wearing a comfy pair of shoes that I miraculously found this morning in one of the boxes crowding our temporary apartment. Modest heels, rubber soled. Just the thing for standing on the shoulder of a busy road.

My insurance agent emailed me a copy of the car's proof of insurance. My phone somehow managed to work perfectly as the police officer pulled the relevant information off the PDF.

My phone went dead. Turned out that my son had his cell phone on him. All of the gentle reminders about putting it on the charger every night and taking it with him every morning had been heeded. It was fully charged and I was able to make a seamless transition with my insurance agent, my dad, my son's friends.

Apparently I've got people: my agent arranged for a body shop to stay open late so that I could have the car taken straight there. Arrangements were made for a local car rental place to pick me up at the body shop and put me in a rental car. I was turning down offers from my son's friends to come and pick us up.

< * What was I so unhappy about again? * >

In just a few short hours I realized that things weren't as bad as I thought they were. There's always something to grumble about, but there was also a ton of stuff to be grateful for. Here's my short list for today:
  • God's watching out for me!  
  • My loved ones and I are alive and have no broken bones
  • I got my coat, gloves, and comfy shoes right as I needed them.
  • My phone stayed alive for the important part, and then a replacement phone was close at hand
  • I'm not alone. Everywhere I turned tonight people were kind and helpful, even going out of their way to take care of us. 
And the car mileage? Well, if it turns out that the car is totalled, I may be getting a second chance at a car with great mileage. I hope it isn't totalled though. There's something to be said for being able to call my car a smashing pumpkin.
Smashed Pumpkin

So much to be thankful for today

I was in a car accident today, and this is a placeholder post 'til I get back from walking my oh so patient dog.  Suffice it to say that I have found so very much to be thankful for, and once I get back from the dog walk I'll share some of my reasons why.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


I've been trying to post during my lunch hour, but today somebody popped open the "Alarm Will Sound" door on my floor.  Did I mention I'm highly distractable?  Consider this a placeholder.  I'll post later some of the "Why's" of living with ADD

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Where am I?

Have you ever been completely mentally “away?” Not just daydreaming, but mentally fully immersed in a completely different situation? This happens to me a lot. My understanding is that this is why what my brain does is called Attention Deficit Disorder . It’s not that I can’t maintain focus, it’s that I have a disorder that makes it difficult for me to switch between a deep focus when intermittent focus is needed or switch out of intermittent mode when I need to be focusing deeply on something, like you know, my next blog post.
Something that has helped me understand this brain mechanism better is meditation. Apparently there are two basic kinds of meditation – I’m going to call them the orange and nitrogen because I have no idea what they’re really called.

The Orange:

In this form of meditation you take a single item, like an orange or a raisin or an action (your breath) and you focus everything on that. You consider the folds and the valleys and the color and the stem and every single thing related to that orange. You train your mind to exclude all other stimuli so that you can deeply concentrate on the scent and the weight and the texture of that orange. Just like a muddy stream settling after a storm, gradually all the sediment in your mind settles and you’re completely clear. It’s amazingly powerful and I’ve finished this kind of a meditation feeling as though I’ve awaken from the deepest most refreshing sleep.


In this form of meditation you focus on everything in and around you. It helps me to think of nitrogen – it’s everywhere in our environment, and as a gas it gets into our bloodstream and our lungs and fills every space that we move in. When meditating like this you keep yourself grounded in the here and now, becoming deeply aware of all of your thoughts and your feelings and all the sights and sounds around you. I have deep trouble doing this. For whatever reason I start out focusing on the mundane activities of life around me and the next thing I know my mind is a million miles away. I pull it back and bring my focus back to the spaces that nitrogen has crept into and I’m gone again, thinking about how I need to add fertilizer to my plants. My personal theory is that I’m already uncommonly aware of the things around me, and as such this kind of meditation doesn’t help my brain settle.

So what’s my point?

Anchors help me. As I write this I have a printed sheet of paper across the room with my top three priorities on it. As my mind wanders off my gaze lights on my priority list and it narrows my focus back onto my priorities. At home I’ve taken a slightly different tack: rather than have a priority list tacked to the wall, I remove the distractions. The TV set is tucked into a back room and I keep the computers closed up unless I specifically need them for a task. My phone ringer and calendar reminders are on, but text message notifications are off. I know where my mind goes, and I’m learning how to direct it where I want it to go.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Today’s Question: Who am I Not?

I’ve worked with a lot of people in various stages of life. One of the techniques that I’ve seen help some people figure out what direction to go in is to first eliminate the options they don’t like. Horribly paraphrasing Sherlock Holmes, once you have eliminated the unwanted, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, is the direction you should take.

I know I’m easily distracted from the boring task at hand by the promise of a hilarious tweet or another news story or yummm chocolate. The Buddhists call this state of mind “Monkey Mind” meaning unsettled; restless; capricious; whimsical; fanciful; inconstant; confused; indecisive; uncontrollable". Ok. Um, this is not who I want to be.

So, taking Sherlock Holmes advice, who do I want to be? I want to be consistent and responsible. I want my decisions to be reasoned and thought out and made in a timely manner. I want to be dependable and clearheaded. Those of you who know me in real life may say “But this is who you are” If so, Hooray! But I do want to mention how much effort it takes me to be like this.

  • I write everything down or text/email it to myself. Very simply, if it isn’t recorded, I don’t consider it “known”
  • I schedule everything. If you look at my calendar, you’ll see a lot of 1 minute appointments for random things.
  • My “appointments” have multiple reminders
  • I work with my strengths – For example, I know that I like being around people. Rather than try to do things that I’m bad at by myself, I schedule them with people, or in conjunction with things I like to do.
  • I realize that some things are going to take me a lot more time to do and I’ve learned to accept that.
  • I apologize a lot. Unfortunately, even with all the tips and tricks I use, I still say things in the heat of the moment that I probably shouldn’t say, forget things I’ve promised to do, and miss events. Still, a humble heart is supposed to be good for you, and I figure all of the oops’es have definitely made me more humble.

This article is what inspired today's blog post, even though I didn't really stay on topic. Still, it’s worth a read because basically this is what I try to do – outsmart my baser self by setting up “tricks” that keep me productive.

“Capable psychonauts who think about thinking, about states of mind, about set and setting, can get things done not because they have more will power, more drive, but because they know productivity is a game of cat and mouse versus a childish primal human predilection for pleasure and novelty which can never be excised from the soul. Your effort is better spent outsmarting yourself than making empty promises through plugging dates into a calendar or setting deadlines for push ups.” Thanks David McRaney for the quote that I've been thinking about all day.

Monday, November 1, 2010

National Blog Posting Month

I tried to do NaNoWriMo'09, which ended in a major crash and burn when our life was turned upside down and shaken, not stirred.  I simply didn't have it in me to create new stuff when real life was demanding every ounce of creativity I had.  I WANT to write, and I love the community of NaNoWriMo, life just got in the way.

Somehow November showed up on my doorstep again.  I'm still trying to figure out how that happened, but one thing I do know:  I want to write.  I need to write.  When I write I feel better in my skin.  I just don't want to commit myself to 50K words.  Debbi suggested I try NaBloPoMo instead, so here I am (and Jenn insisted that I capitalize it NaBloPoMo)

The other reason I'm trying for NaBloPoMo is that I'm not sure what direction to take Phera's Focus, and I'm hoping a month of writing and interacting will help me figure this out.

Questions I'm going to try to answer:

  • Who am I?  <-- this one's a hard one for me!  You know those bio snippets on every social media site?  I hate'em.  
  • What do I value?
  • What inspires me?
  • What do I fear?
  • What do I desire most?
  • What are my talents, interests, and strengths?
  • Where will I be 15 years from now?

Will you explore these questions with me?  Thanks! I need the encouragement :)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Use Paper Towels

City Living Lesson 2: Pretreat Daily, Wash Weekly (and use paper towels)

I love microfiber cloths. I adore them...I don't love them as much after they've been mouldering in my rag bag for a week. My step ladder is now doubling as a rag drying rack and I grab for a paper towel if I have a bad spill to clean up. Clothes that get stained get a quick squirt of stain remover and then get added to the hamper.

It's different for me, but probably most different for our son. He used to be able to get away with adding clean discarded clothes to the hamper-now I grill him on each item because I don't want to haul any more than I have to down to the laundromat.

The tiny closets in our apartment and in the houses we've looked at are also inspiring me to cut down on the amount of clothing we have. Now that the boxes are mostly unpacked I can start thinking about that sort of thing. I'm surprised at how much we brought with us that we don't need.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Wear Good Shoes

In addition to shaking up all our stuff, moving has shaken up how we do things in our household.  The most important lesson so far?  

Wear good shoes and always carry a good shoulder bag/tote.  

We have no garage or even a reserved parking spot.  At best we walk 30 yards from the street to the apartment. At worst? Well, let's just say it's a good thing I've got experience as an AT hiker. I never leave the house now without good shoes on. Our son learned about carrying a good bag when we left the public library with armfuls of books and had to hike to our parking spot.

On the plus side, I'm going to leave some excess baggage in Kansas:  I've lost 5 pounds in this first week alone

Monday, June 7, 2010

One Week in New York City

I've been married for 15 years and doing laundry and other chores for as long as I can remember, and it's interesting how one week in New York City can change the way I look at and plan my household chores.

First thing I've learned? Wear good shoes and always carry a good shoulder bag/tote. 

I also have a list of things I've changed: 

Old rule: a load of laundry a day
NYC change: spot treat stains daily, head to the laundromat once a week

Old rule: once a week grocery shopping
NYC change: a little at a time (and I'm considering delivery service)

Old rule: keep the box
NYC rule: reuse/recycle/remove everything!

Stay the same: do the dishes immediately

I'll tell you more about these throughout the week.

In the meantime, what's your moving/getting settled tip?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

How I Stay Motivated to Walk

Good morning, walkers! I hope you've been keeping up with your goals for Walk Kansas better than I have.

The weather lately has been so beautiful that it's almost a crime to stay inside to exercise. However, I'm going to share a tip today that has helped me keep walking when all other methods have failed.

I don't like to exercise. I love to play volleyball or play in the lake or a pool, but when it comes to planned walking or biking or weightlifting or whatever- I won't do it. I'd much rather sit on the couch, watch TV, and eat a bunch of crap.

Several years ago, my husband and I bought a treadmill, in the hopes that at least one of us would start using it. I started out with the best of intentions, but after a few weeks it sat lonely in the corner of the room. It was just too boring to walk aimlessly on a treadmill. Meanwhile, I kept spending time on the couch in front of the TV.

We decided to splurge and order a second DVR box for the room with the treadmill. I started recording all the silly shows I like to watch (that my husband won't)- and the only way I could watch them was in this room, on the treadmill. The shows were mostly 45 minutes after fast-forwarding through the commercials, and it occupied my mind enough that I didn't get bored walking. I actually started to look forward to it!

I'd rather be one of those people who can walk outside in the sunshine, with headphones on, but I just get too bored. And it's not always easy to schedule time to walk with a friend- I have to squeeze it walking in where I can. At least I'm walking, even if it's indoors. This method has kept me walking for two years now, and typically I walk 3-4 times per week, for 45 minutes each time.

This spring & summer, I'm going to try using audio books on my iPod and walking outside. We'll see if it holds my interest as much as Law & Order and Gossip Girl.

What secret tips help keep you motivated to walk?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Another Perspective

I should be used to this by now, but it still surprises me to see how different one person's perspective can be from another's.  Yesterday a friend took me clothes shopping and encouraged me to try on all kinds of different items - structured jackets, embellished tank tops, floaty skirts, and drapey blouses.  Some of the clothes looked really cool even on the hanger, but some things just turned me off when I first looked at them.  I was amazed when I tried on a dress from the latter category, lost twenty pounds, and a sparkle suddenly appeared in my eyes. Well, I may be joking about the twenty pounds, but I am serious about the sparkle in my eyes.  

I never in my lifetime would have pulled that dress off the rack.  Never.  And now it's hanging in my closet ready for our trip to New York tomorrow.  It took a dear friend to look at me, look at my options, and help me decide what direction to take (or in this case what dress to buy).  

Has a friend ever helped you put something in perspective?  Do you have any tricks to try and see things from someone else's point of view?   My personal favorite way to see things from someone else's point of view is to ask them.  Today I'm really thankful that I did because now I have an adorable addition to my closet... and hopefully with your support I'll soon have more subtractions from my waistline.

Psst -- check out this cool picture showing a skewed perspective.Is there anything in your life looming larger than it should be?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Whoosh Go the Plans

Remember my challenge for this week - you know, prep all your freggies in advance?  Well, those plans just jumped off a cliff.  We're headed to New York City tomorrow afternoon, which means 5 days of travel, hotel rooms, restaurant food, and yup, you guessed it: no fridge or cutting board.

I'm not too worried about getting my minutes in, but I am worried about my freggies.  What's worked well for you when you traveled?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Half Way There

What a wonderful Monday!  I got to meet Carol for a quick walk around the McGrew Nature Preserve this morning. It's so bright and sunny out that we really were Walking on Sunshine.

We're coming up on the half way point of our Walk Kansas Fitness Challenge.  I'd like you to use this week to check your progress and see how you're doing.

How have you done on our challenges so far?
  • Week One:Your challenge for this week was to figure out 2 things you can do to make eating fruits and vegetables easier and two things you can do to make it easier for you to exercise.
  • Week Two: What are you doing to hit your fruit/veggie levels every day? What are you doing to hit your weekly exercise totals?
  • Week Three: This week's food challenge was to try to include 3 different colors per day.  This week's physical activity challenge is to think POSITIVE while exercising!!
This weekend I was visiting Bailey and encountered a beautiful sight in her refrigerator. It inspired me to come up with this week's challenge...

That's right, your food challenge for this week is to prep your freggies for each day in advance. You can do as Bailey did and chop and sort a week's worth of freggies into plastic tubs to take to work, or you can do it on a daily basis, but let's do it.

Your physical activity challenge is to ramp up your intensity. At this point you've been walking for three weeks and you've probably got your favorite route down. Try to beat your time every time you head out, or keep the same route but add lunges or jumping jacks to your walk.

Email me, comment on this post,tweet me, facebook me, meet me for a walk, or come to me in my dreams (ok, I don't really mean that last one) and let me know how you've been doing the last few weeks and how you intend to meet this next challenge.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Week 3: More tips & info..

Good morning, ladies!

The nutrition goal this week was to eat at least 3 colors per day, requiring you to get a little more creative. I came across this article on MSN Health, "Eating Well by Color." The colors of fruits & veggies provide a clue as to what nutrients are included. For example, red fruits & veggies contain lycopene which protects against breast cancer (2nd most cause of cancer death in women). The article explains each color, except white (mushroom, banana, onion, ginger, etc.). White contains beta-glucans, EGCG, SDG, and lignans that provide powerful immune boosting activity.

The exercise challenge this week required thinking positive. Listening to music helps keep your mind off negative thoughts so you may want to update your iPod or create a playlist, if you haven't already. A 20-minute exercise session is about 4 or 5 songs long. If you're like me, you repeatedly glance at the clock to see how much time is left until you reach 20 minutes! Then you realize you have only been exercising for 1.5 minutes since you last looked at the clock! So a trick to keep in mind is: avoid glancing at the clock while moving, until you have listened to at least 4 songs.

Finally, we have to remember how fortunate we are that we have the ability to exercise. I often think of those who are unable to walk or run - the disabled, elderly, sick, injured - and I run not just for myself, but I run for them. Many Native American cultures tie running with a spiritual energy. For those who do not know, I am Native American so this is stuff I learned as I grew up. Some cultures will pray for the disabled, elderly, sick, and injured while running. Check out this article in the New York Times on the Navajo tradition: "Indians Proudly Revive a Tradition of Running." Not everyone is spiritual or believes in a higher being, but I just wanted to share another variation on this aspect of "positive thinking."

Have a great weekend and keep working toward your goals!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Week 3: somewhere over the rainbow..

Hello Walking On Sunshine Team! I'm Julia, your Week 3 motivator. I was out of town Sunday and Monday, so I am just now getting around to writing this week's challenges!

This week's food challenge is to try to include 3 different colors per day. I was watching Dr. Oz one day (yes, I know it is a nerdy show) and he said a phrase that stuck in my head - he said, "Eat the rainbow." Take a conscious effort to look at your plate and see if you can make it more colorful! Stay away from having too much brown, yellow, and white (unless of course it is something like cauliflower, butternut squash, and a banana). Instead, go for colors like green (asparagus, spinach, celery), red (tomato, apple), orange (tangerine, orange, carrot, sweet potato), and even the more exotic colors blue (blueberries) or purple (eggplant, grapes)... maybe even tie-die, a combo of colors? Whatever you choose, have fun with it. I think the key to eating enough fruits and veggies is VARIETY.

This week's physical activity challenge is to think POSITIVE while exercising!! My greatest barrier to exercising is being in the right mindset. I was jogging at the gym today and I heard a woman telling her friend, "I can't do this, it's too hard." It was a major distraction, mainly because I was about 15 minutes into my run and that is the point where I'm usually like, I've had enough! Every time you catch those thoughts creeping in: "This is too hard," or "I'm going to quit early," then simply try to replace it with a positive thought: "I can do this," or "This will get easier with practice," or "My body needs this." In high school, I had a track coach who had one rule - no complaining! He said, if you think negative thoughts while running, it only makes it harder. When you voice a negative thought out loud, it makes that thought become 100 times more powerful. The same goes for positive thoughts, so it's ok to voice the positive ones out loud!

I will be sharing additional ideas on these challenges throughout the remainder of the week. So far, I've eaten orange and green.. now I'm going to go find one more color! Have a good evening!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Week 2 Stats Due

It's that time again - your stats are due.  Please let me know via the method of your choice how you did this week.  Was anything easier this week?  Harder than you expected? Personally I had a great week in terms of family time, but it wasn't so hot when it came to freggies and exercise.  Youth soccer practice starts on Monday, and I usually get a good workout in while kiddo is playing ball, so I have high hopes for this coming week.  

Many thanks to Christy for her motivating emails this week, and please give a great big sunshiney welcome to Week 3's Queen Motivator Julia

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

holidays, kind of

Ladies, your chief motivator for week two of Walk Kansas has had a cold since Sunday and has not been especially productive. I am eating plenty of fruits and veggies, and I did see an interesting TV show you might want to check out.

"The Truth About Food" on FitTV goes through a lot of experiments on food's effects on the body. In the latest episode, nine volunteers ate a half-ton of fruits, vegetables (and some seeds) over a 10-day period. Sort of like a return to the ancestral diet.

So eating 10 pounds of fruit a day each led to some drastic effects on health in terms of lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, etc. Also had some other side effects you can imagine that you might not want to hear about, but ... while eating 10 pounds of fruits and veggies sounds unpalatable to me, it did make me think about the effect of putting out all your 5-9 servings of produce on display (as they did in the show) as a visual reminder of what all you're trying to eat each day.

I think if I did that, two things would happen: 1) To be able to set it all out each morning, I'd have to plan ahead and have all the produce purchased, cleaned and ready ahead of time, which is usually where I fall short (running out of something and not getting a chance to return to the store for more), and 2) Focusing more on what I need to eat through the day and filling in the blanks with the rest rather than spending time thinking about what I SHOULDN'T eat. I hope that makes sense; I'm kind of tired.

What are you doing to hit your fruit/veggie levels every day?

Happy St. Patrick's Day to all. I foresee a 20-minute walk and early to bed again. Hope your plans are more exciting.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


Hi, ladies! I'm Christy, your week two motivator!

So I sent Amerika my stats for week one, but I never got around to sending her goals and rewards. I was really chewing on those rewards, because I can't drop a bunch of money but I do want to celebrate a total reversal of my exercise habits since about Christmas.

So I decided what I need are some Fabulous Pajamas. I have these droopy, big, faded old fuschia yoga pants I've been slogging around in for months, in part because, now that I think about it, the jeans starting getting a little tighter after the holidays, and I ignored that.

No, these would be the kind of PJs that I would be glad to be wearing if I had to jump out of a second-floor window into a fetchingly bulky firefighter's arms. (In such fantasies, I would fall light as a thistle and not actually impact concrete.) I would be photographed extensively and end up in Vogue's best-dressed list. Where do you find those kinds of pajamas, you ask? I'm thinking Target, $20 or so.

Since I probably wouldn't stop the presses in real life, I suppose my point is I would like to gift myself with something I really want but that only I'm going to see and appreciate. At first I thought that I would want my first Walk Kansas reward to be a manicure or haircut. (Both of which may eventually go on the list.) But those feel more like things you do for people to compliment. Like, "I love your haircut -- and by the way, you look like you walked 150 minutes and ate 35 fruits and vegetables this week." Well, I don't really need or want outside support or compliments (although they're nice) to motivate me, because if they stopped, I might fall off the Walk Kansas wagon. I want to do something that only I'm going to see and know about, because this is for me.

So, this time Saturday, I'll be lounging around in Fabulous Pajamas. What do you have planned?

Olly, ollly, oxen free

Data's due - please let me know how many minutes you were Walking on Sunshine this past week, how many fruits and veggies you enjoyed in the last seven days, and the number of days you had whole grains.  As soon as I get everyone's numbers I'll update our progress on the Walk Kansas website.

Enjoy your spring break and be sure to give Christy a warm welcome as she assumes the role of Queen Motivator this next week.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Are you ready for the weekend?

I am so ready for the weekend it isn't even funny!  My husband gets back in town tonight and next week is Spring Break.  For the first time ever we both have the week off.  Hip hip hooray! 

Two brief announcements and one call for volunteers: 
  • I need to get your data either Saturday night or sometime on Sunday so I can enter it on the Walk Kansas website, but you won't be hearing much from me for a while because...
  •  I'm passing the crown of "Queen Motivator" on to @christylit for next week. 
  • Are there any volunteers for the week of March 21-27?  You'll share your food and activity challenges for the week and facilitate our discussion via email, blogpost, twitter, smoke signal, or if we get together.  

I probably should mention that if no one steps forward to volunteer I'm going to start drawing names...Oh yeah, I'm like that.  I'm thankful that you won't make me resort to that, right?

And now I'm off to my last day of bikram yoga.  Enjoy your day!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

My S.M.A.R.T. Plan for Healthy LIving

I asked for a completed S.M.A.R.T. Plan for Healthy Living from our Walking on Sunshine team before the Walk Kansas team started.  The only problem with holding all the info is I need someone to keep an eye on me.  With that in mind, here is my mostly completed plan (I'm really bad at coming up with good rewards, I do much better with all the other parts):
Healthy Living Contract

I set the following SPECIFIC and MEASURABLE goal(s) for myself:
  • I will improve my cardiovascular health by exercising 5x/week for at least 30 minutes
  • I will improve my diet by making sure that I have 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
  • I will improve my energy level by staying hydrated and drinking at least 64 oz of water every day.

My goal is ATTAINABLE because
  • I am scheduling exercise for myself on a daily basis.
  • In addition to planning our menus on a weekly basis, I am keeping fruit and vegetables close at hand and ready to eat
  • I am making myself accountable to my Walk Kansas team and blog readers

I will give myself the following REWARDS when I’m successful at reaching this goal (list each reward and
each milestone):
  • (ok, I'm really bad at rewarding myself. I need suggestions here)

The TIMELINE for this goal is: March 7-May 1
I will keep track of my progress in the following way:

What do you think?  I'm open to gentle guidance, so please let me know your thoughts.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sniff Test

It can be way too easy to put some tasks off and just keep telling ourselves "I'll get to it tomorrow."  Well, this is a sniff test:

  • Are you eating your freggies? (A good step forward is buying them and having them on hand)
  • Are you exercising?  There's just 4 days left in this week, and although it's possible to do all of your exercise this weekend, it's not as sustainable as getting exercise on a daily basis
And last, but not least,

If the answer to any of this is No.... well, I'll keep this family friendly and won't tell you what I smell.  The good news is you still have half the week to take care of these things.

I've also asked you to hold me accountable, so here's my stats so far

1/2 Weekly Goal ... My Stats
Exercise Goal 75 ... Me: 205 
Freggies Goal: 20 ... Me:15
Whole Grains Goal: 1/2 of daily grains...Me:0

How are you doing?   

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Rainy Days Can't Keep Me from Walking on Sunshine!

Uh oh.  They say that into every life a little rain must fall. What's your rainy day plan? 

If the rain's not too bad, I actually enjoy walking in the rain.  The streets are usually pretty quiet and it's a very different experience than walking on a bright sunny day.  I also enjoy working out at one of the recreation centers we have here in Lawrence.  Other ideas?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Walking on Sunshine Team Progress

You can see our team progress on the Walk Kansas website at

I'm so excited!  Ok, to be totally honest, I'm always excited about something, but today I'm super excited about our Walking on Sunshine Team!

Ok, I'm off to find some freggies. Have a great day!

Week 1: Make it Easy and You'll Do It

This is the first week of Walk Kansas and we're going to take it easy - no major out-of-my-comfort-zone stretches this week.  I know last week I kept saying get some freggies, get some exercise.  Well, this week it counts.  Your challenge for this week is to figure out 2 things you can do to make eating fruits and vegetables easier and two things you can do to make it easier for you to exercise.

  • In terms of fruits & vegetables, one thing that has really worked for me is to prep anything that is grab and go and place it at an easy to take point.  This means that grapes come home from the store, are washed, and the vines get cut into smaller sections (I'm not to the point where I de-vine the grapes for the whole family).  Apples and pears are washed and are in a bowl on the counter.  Oranges take a little more effort to eat, so they're in a bowl near the stools so you can peel an orange while you are sitting down.    
  • I have a harder time with vegetables, but I try to add vegetables to every dish I make.  Frozen peas and carrots added to the rice cooker are a great addition to steamed rice,  a bag of seasoning vegetables while I'm browning meat makes our main dish taste even better.  Even my meatloaf generally has a serving of extra veggies, generally cut up very small so the youngest eyes at the table don't pick them out.  

When it comes to exercise, the following tips have worked for me:

  • Find a workout buddy.  In 2009 I walked daily and conference called two friends who live in another part of the country.  Sometimes they walked on a treadmill, sometimes it was outside, but we knew that when that phone rang, we needed to be exercising.  Because there were three of us, even if one was sick there were still two of us who could walk together.  It also worked well in our schedules because you just had to call in, you didn't have to meet at a certain place at a certain time.  
  • Exercise during kid's activities (if you're one of my umbrella/froggie/shark friends, shush now-that was in the winter!) As kid activities pick up I end up as taxi mom.  It's hard to run errands or do much productive during the 30-60 minute activities that most kids have... but if the weather is good, it's the perfect amount of time for a good walk.  The key to taking advantage of found time like this is being prepared.  I'm usually wearing good walking shoes, and now that I've gotten to know Lawrence it's fairly easy for me to come up with a decent walking route that fits the open block of time.  
Those are my tips, now it's your turn.  What do you plan to do to make eating fruits and vegetables and exercising a part of your life?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Walk Kansas Day 1

We're starting, we're starting!

deep breath. deep breath.

What should I do first?

  • Get our your calendar and plan to do a Walking Test. 
  • While your calendar is out, plan when and where you're going to exercise this next week.  Walk Kansas team members have committed to 150 minutes of exercise each week.  How and when are you going to get this done?  
  • Share your ideas:  Each week our team, Walking on Sunshine, has a healthy eating challenge and a physical activity challenge.  In the past we've done things like try new fruits/veggies, attempt go carless for a day, and even aimed for a meatless/vegan day.  I'll be sharing with you the challenges that our team does, but I assure you that we'll be looking for ideas as Walk Kansas progresses.  

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The amount of sugar in drinks is amazing--and scary to see laid out like this!!

Edited 7:30 PM
Sarah sent me an email with a link to the following youtube video(Warning: NASTY!)  and these comments: 
Have you ever seen the BBC "You are what you eat?" The host is a dietitian and she breaks people's diets down to the grossest basic level.

Here's a really gross (but effective) YouTube clip from the show. I watched it a lot when I was on maternity leave. Kind of addicting. She's also made a chocolate tombstone, vat of tea with milk and sugar, etc. She tries to shock people by letting them know what they're actually eating.

After watching the video, all I can say is "Gross!" We haven't bought hotdogs in a long time, and it looks like it's going to be an even longer time before we ever do again! Thanks for the link Sarah (I think. I may have to go throw up now)

Where are you starting from?

The Walk Kansas team challenge doesn't start until Sunday, but it's a good idea to take a look at what you're doing now.  I recommend printing out the daily log and filling it in this week, just to see where you're starting from in terms of exercise and diet.  I started keeping my data on SparkPeople again and am realizing just how low on exercise and freggies I've gotten.

A clear vision of what you want to achieve makes it easier to do all the little steps.  Walk Kansas has a S.M.A.R.T. Plan for Healthy Living that each participant should fill out.  I asked my Walking on Sunshine team turn theirs in to me, but you might want to post yours on the refrigerator or the bathroom mirror so it stays foremost in your mind.   

Friday, March 5, 2010

Walk Kansas

I'm going to focus on Walking for the next 8 weeks through the Walk Kansas program, and you're invited to come with me.   Check out their web page at for more information.

Our team's name is Walking on Sunshine and you can read my emails to the team on this blog.  Use the comment section to let me know how you're doing on your personal challenge.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Week's Worth of Laundry

My husband came back from combined interview/consulting travel with a week's worth of dirty laundry in his suitcase.  I didn't realize that he'd left the case in the car until Sunday.  That's right.  He got in on Thursday and I didn't do anything about it until today.  Oops.  No, oops doesn't quite capture it.

I've been trying hard to do a load of laundry a day for at least the last three years.  What this means is that we don't have a lot of depth in the underwear drawer-- I can only go a little over a week without having to choose between a bathing suit bottom or going commando.  I've always kept the guys stocked with more underwear and socks, partly because of business travel, but also because laundry doesn't always make it into the hamper (I once found a load's worth of dirty clothes in the attic.  Yes, you read that right.  I have yet to understand the minds of small boys.  Or big boys for that matter.)

I digress.  A week's worth of laundry in a suitcase. More travel commencing today.  Panic!  Oh wait.  The guys have more pairs of tighty whities than I do.  Crisis averted.

Things I've learned from this last round of business travel:

  • Suitcases, like lunchboxes, should be opened immediately upon reentry.  If none is presented, ask.  (Lunchboxes? you ask. Ah, that is the subject of another blog post)
  • Mom should have less laundry than anyone else in the family.  It helps keep laundry predicaments at bay

Friday, February 26, 2010

Blueberry Boy Bait: It works!

A friend came over to borrow my kitchen and bake last night.  She made a delicious treat called Blueberry Boy Bait.  I also made some oh-so-good cheaters lasagna (ravioli instead of lasagna noodles, baked for 30 minutes in the sauce-yummy!)

We had a great time baking and eating and chatting, and somehow the kitchen cleaned itself up like magic between the laughter and conversation.  Just as she was headed home around 10:PM, the doorbell rang.  Strangely enough the dogs didn't even bark.  I was a little nervous as I peeked out.  Who should I see but my husband! He decided to come back a day early and surprise us all! 

Try this recipe - as boy bait, it works:  it called to my sweetheart across state lines and brought him home to me.

Blueberry Boy Bait
Adapted from Cook’s Country, which adapted it from the original
(as made by Meagan Rhoads who provided the link to the Smitten Kitchen)

Like any recipe with a great name, this also has a great story, which was that in 1954, a 15-year-old girl stole the show (but only won second prize) in the junior division of an early Pillbury Bake-Off with a variation of this recipe, named, she said, after the effect it had on boys.

Cook’s Country magazine dusted this recipe off from the Pillsbury Bake-Off Dessert Cookbook and made a few tweaks to bring it more deliciously into the modern age: butter was swapped for shortening, the quantity of blueberries was doubled and some plain sugar was replaced with brown sugar. The result? Let’s just say you don’t need to be a boy to be lured in.

Serves 12, generously
2 cups plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup whole milk (though buttermilk, which was all I had on hand, worked just great)
1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, do not defrost first as it tends to muddle in the batter)

1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (do not defrost)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 13 by 9-inch baking pan.
Whisk two cups flour, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl. With electric mixer, beat butter and sugars on medium-high speed until fluffy, about two minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just incorporated and scraping down bowl. Reduce speed to medium and beat in one-third of flour mixture until incorporated; beat in half of milk. Beat in half of remaining flour mixture, then remaining milk, and finally remaining flour mixture. Toss blueberries with remaining one teaspoon flour. Using rubber spatula, gently fold in blueberries. Spread batter into prepared pan.

For the topping:
Scatter blueberries over top of batter. Stir sugar and cinnamon together in small bowl and sprinkle over batter. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan 20 minutes, then turn out and place on serving platter (topping side up). Serve warm or at room temperature. (Cake can be stored in airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Taco Casserole

I'm trying to clean out the pantry. This was today's attempt at using up lots of canned goods and frozen veggies:

Taco Casserole

1.5 pound lean ground beef
1 pkg taco seasoning
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 small bag frozen green peppers
1 can whole corn, rinsed and drained
2 cups salsa
1 (16 ounce) can chili beans, drained but not rinsed
3 cups tortilla chips, crushed
2 cups sour cream
1 (2 ounce) can sliced black olives, drained
1/2 cup chopped green onion
1 can Ro-Tel diced tomatoes, drained but not rinsed
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook onion and ground beef until beef is no longer pink. Drain any excess grease. Stir in the frozen green peppers, corn, and salsa, reduce heat, and simmer 20minutes, or until liquid is absorbed. Stir in beans, and heat through.

Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray. Spread crushed tortilla chips in dish, and then spoon beef mixture over chips. Spread sour cream over beef, and sprinkle olives, green onion, and tomato over the sour cream. Top with Cheddar cheese.

Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.

I'd love to post a pic, but there wasn't any left :)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Starting the move folder

In the background you can see my 2008 move folder.  It was a zippered binder that had an attached file section.  I had the following inside:

  • Change of address letters
  • postage
  • envelopes
  • a phone log
  • maps
  • my move checklist
  • school information

Every move is different, and I'm taking a slightly different approach to this move. This binder has a space for a laptop. I'm also planning to use google voice to track all of my phone calls. I have two sets of dividers inside, one set to track details where we are now, and the other set to organize the details of our new location.

I'll update you on our move as we progress.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Meal Planning 101 - Part I

This is the first of a multi-part post on how to plan your meals

First off, what do you mean when you say "plan your meals?" I'll be the first to say that there's no right way or wrong way to do things - there's just your way that works for you.  I've used formal month long meal plans with breakfast, an afterschool snack and dinner planned every day, I've also scribbled a couple of dishes on the back of a slip of paper and used that to go grocery shopping.  Both methods work, and are as different from each other as the east is from the west.

When I say "plan your meals" I'm basically saying have an idea of what you're eating every day for a defined period.

Ok, so what good does that do me?  Why should I plan my meals?  In my case, my brain either works overtime when I'm under pressure or it completely shuts down.  I wish I could pick which one would happen, but usually at 5:30 when I'm tired and hungry I simply can't think of what we should eat for dinner.  Having a menu for the week posted on the fridge restarts my brain and having the supplies I need just inside the refrigerator door lowers my stress.

Eating at home saves us money and allows us to eat healthier meals.  You save money three ways:  one is by getting fresh foods and skipping the overhead that a restaurant has to add on.  Also, by not running to the store all the time you save a ton on impulse buys.  Finally, you save money by using the food you've bought and not having to throw it out when the tomatoes get squishy and the lettuce melts into a yucky mess in the produce drawer.

You also eat much healthier, too.  In 2007 when I did Weight Watchers we were encouraged to plan all of our daily points in advance. That way if I was tempted by something I had my daily planned snacks and meals to look forward to, which made it easier to resist temptation. Cooking at home also gives you complete control over the ingredients, which is important if you have someone with food sensitivities/allergies or a vegetarian/vegan in the family.

I try to do all of my shopping on one day each week.  This saves time because instead of having to run to the grocery store to pick up two items (and invariably forgetting one of them!) I have everything at home when I'm ready to cook.  I also like to use listmakers like shopping lists to help me get everything I need in each part of the store.  Best of all, I save time and stress by not having to worry about what's for dinner each night.  I come home, look at that night's menu, and I'm good to go!

What do I love most about eating at home?  The relationships. We often hold a "Make Your Own Pizza Night."  I'll make an easy dough earlier in the day and let it rise.  Then we have friends or family over and give everyone their own dough ball to toss and make into a pizza.  Anything you could ever want on a pizza is laid out on the kitchen counter. Picky kids get to make a pizza with exactly what they want on it - no more and no less - and gourmet parents finally get to have their spinach artichoke garlic black olive pesto pizza.  We enjoy the time together making the meal and the time spent at the table eating the meal.  The very best part?  No check at the end of the dinner and the knowledge that the memories and dinner in cost less than half of a similar dinner out.

Monday, January 18, 2010

All the ways to reach me

I figured I should write a quick post with a list of all the ways and places to find me.

This blog:  Phera's Focus

Podcasting at

My Facebook Fan Page:


Call/text me at (909) 90-PHERA

And last but not least, Email phera at ymail dot com (Replace the "at" with "@" and the "dot" with "." I'm just trying to keep a little of the spam out of my mail box!)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Laundry Warning Light

A lot of things have indicators to let you know that you're almost out.  For example, the receipt roll at stores generally has a pink bar pattern as you get to the end of the roll.  Your smoke detector is really good about letting you know when batteries run low.  Our cars even have a light that comes on when we start running low on gas.  Wouldn't it be cool if we had something like that at our houses to let us know we were low on certain supplies?  

Here are a couple of ways to build in your own "low supply indicators"
  • Laundry:  Check each family member's sock and underwear drawer to see what their supply looks like.  Make sure that you have fewer pairs of underwear and/or socks than anyone else.  Designate (or buy) a particular pair of underwear as your "laundry light" pair and make sure to always put it on the bottom of the underwear stack.  When you pull that one out of the drawer, you know you need to do laundry!  If you've got fewer pairs than anyone else in the family, they'll never run short on shorts again because you were able to step in and take action before they ran out.  
  • Toilet Paper/Paper Towels: Put a square of red masking tape or write "BUY MORE" on a roll almost at the end of the stack. When that roll comes out of the pantry add toilet paper or paper towels to the shopping list.  
I'm going to check around the house this week to see what other items lend themselves to "Low Supply" warnings.  Any ideas?