Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A Kinda Really Sorta Perfect Day

I love traveling and vacation days as much as the next woman, hell, probably even more.  But there are days that you have to work.  And on days you have to work, I've proven that you can still sorta kinda have a really perfect have-to-work kinda day.  Here's how it went.  

I went to bed the night before early enough that I got a FULL 8 hours of sleep!  Usually if I get 7 hours, I'm thrilled!  

I drank a glass of water before leaving for work.  This starts what I call "The Water Cycle" which, very simply, is a means of getting enough water packed into as early in the day as possible.  Most of us never get enough water throughout the day, and it's a bad idea to drink a ton of water at the end of the day, at least for me, because that means getting up multiple times per night to use the restroom.  So my mantra pertaining to water consumption, while hiking and in general, is "drink early, drink often."  So I guzzle 12 ounces before I leave for work.  This means that before an hour of work is done, I will need to get up to use the restroom.  I bring my cup with me (the one I keep at work is 14 ounces), and refill it on the way to the restroom.  I drink at least a third on the way to the restroom.  On my way back to my desk, I drink another third or so.  In another, say, 40 minutes, I have to use the restroom again, and I bring my cup with me, and so on.  When I do this right, I can drink a gallon of water a day, most of which is before 6 pm, ensuring that I won't disrupt my precious sleep too much.  

I get ready for work, kiss my boyfriend, pet the dog, and I'm off.  I unplug my car and throw the charger in the hatch.  

I work through my German lesson on the way to work.  Each lesson is about 28 minutes, which is just about the average time of my commute.  I usually finish my lesson as I'm pulling into the garage.  Sometimes, on extraordinarily speedy days, I have to sit in my car for a minute to finish the lesson, but usually no more than a minute or two.  Today I was actually repeating a lesson I had done over the weekend, because I felt I needed the extra practice.  It paid off, I did really well this time around!  Excellent!  

I park my car, pull out the charger from the hatch and plug it in.  I grab my three bags: my purse, my gym bag and my food bag, including my breakfast shake, my lunch, a light dinner, a diet soda, four perfectly portioned healthy snacks, and three bags of candy for the suckers who come by my desk in need of chocolate.  

I go up the elevator alone, which is nice because it helps me gather my thoughts.  Sometimes I'm pressured to socialize before I'm ready and I'm still in German-lesson mode or worse, thinking about an audio book I've been listening to that causes me to be completely thrown off by small talk.  I mean, at least the German lessons are essentially small talk, I just have to remember to switch my brain to English.  

I catch the door just before it locks.  When its locked, one must use his or her badge to unlock the door, a small inconvenience in the grand scheme of things, but that somehow is disproportionately glorious when one catches the door before it locks.  

I decide, in the name of getting my 10,000 steps, not to put my food away on my way to my desk.  I greet my colleagues, the few that were around (most people in my row are on vacation or having babies).  I bring everything to my desk first, then sort through things and make a run to the kitchen to put my lunch and dinner away at that time.  

I boot up the computer, turn my two external monitors on, because who doesn't need three monitors.  I scan through my email, answer a few dire ones, and get to work on planning.  Tuesdays and Wednesdays are planning days in my department, meaning we have to do the majority of the tactical parts of our jobs on these two days.  On Mondays I do a lot of prep work, and usually get a head start on some basic planning, which means that because yesterday was a holiday, I'm instantly feeling behind.  

One of my coworkers had made and brought in chips and an amazing green chile dip we affectionately call "crack dip."  I decided to bypass a couple of my healthy snacks in favor of crack dip.  It was sooooo worth it.  Besides, I am not sure I would have eaten enough calories without it.  This, of all things, has been a surprising and disturbing revelation recently for me.  When I thought I was "being good" by eating healthy, low calorie and low carb foods, I actually wasn't eating enough at all.  So instead of losing weight, my body was in a starvation mode I suppose, and conserving all the fat it could.  Talk about the worst scenario!  Here I was depriving myself of delectable food in the name of losing weight, and my weight loss was stagnant or minimal at best.  So frustrating!  Anyways, I've learned my lesson, so now I'm working harder at balancing eating enough and not eating too much.  I can't say I've nailed it completely, but today I ended up just right, which is a good start.  

I plug away at my planning, answering urgent emails as I go.  I didn't get quite everything done, but I got more done than on a typical Monday, and it wouldn't be good if I was expected to complete all of Monday's and Tuesday's tasks in one day anyways.  Throughout the day, The Water Cycle is effective in not only getting me close to my goal of 96 ounces of water, but it also helps me boost my step count.  Because I had the chips and crack dip, I wasn't really hungry when it was time for lunch, so I ate a little late but made sure I ate so I wouldn't be thinking about snacking.  When I realized I was getting frustrated with my work, I cracked open my Diet Pepsi, because for whatever reason, that little bit of a caffeine hit seems to perk up my mood when I'm crabby.  There are lots of days I bypass the soda altogether, because it gets in the way of my water consumption, but I felt it was important today to keep me happy.  

I ended the day with fewer emails than I started with, which is a good thing.  I learned of a few more problems, but dealt with them as best I could for the time.  Still more planning to do tomorrow, so it will still be a crunch, but I felt good about what I accomplished.  

I wrapped up a little later than usual (less than 30 minutes late), grabbed my things and headed to the gym.  I was planning on primarily doing weights, but the ab machine was broken which was terribly disappointing because I freaking love that thing.  So I did four sets on three different machines for arms, and did some legs.  

I felt guilty getting all dressed in workout clothes without really breaking much of a sweat, and my nagging FitBit app indicated that I had yet to hit my goals for steps, miles, calories burned or active minutes.  I hadn't drank all my water for the day, either.  So I filled up my water bottle and got on a treadmill.  Normally my cardio machine of choice at the gym is the bike, but I was thinking that the treadmill would do double duty by giving me my steps, in addition to cardio.  

I only walked, as I was ill-prepared to run.  I didn't even have socks on, and I was wearing my dancing keds, because I had been planning on doing weights only.  Note to self: wear good (running) shoes to the gym always.  The girl next to me started running, after about five minutes of me trying to keep pace with her power walking (ugggh).  I am one of the rare creatures that enjoys a good run, although it's pretty much always outside, and most enjoyable when its not 100 degrees out.  But I've been trying to be good to my knees, and in addition to having bad footwear for running, I also was wearing a fairly loose sports bra.  What I mean is, I need to wear four super restrictive sports bras in order to feel appropriate to run among colleagues (the gym is, after all, in my office building).  So I didn't run.  I jammed to the tunes on my phone via headphones, and passively watched the headlines on the TVs above me.  But it turned out, the shoes were kinda awful for walking, too.  Ten minutes in I was regretting getting on, but you know, you have this sort of gym pressure, everyone knows how long I've been on the machine, and they'll all think I'm stupid if I get off after any less than 30 minutes.  So I put in my time, begrudgingly.  The FitBit app still didn't indicate I had hit any of my goals, but I was over it.  

I listened to my audio book as I headed south in my car.  It is so thoroughly entertaining, and there were some good insights today that I will want to go back to and reference later.  I debated getting a hard copy. and made a mental note to check for one at the library.  That reminded me that I did have another book to pick up at the library, so I decided to head there before going home.  It would give me more steps, anyways.  

Finally, after being home and doing a few small chores, I hit my 10,000 steps, and most of my goals were met, including the water consumption goal which I exceeded by logging a full gallon of water.  

I took a glorious hot shower and put on clean comfies for the night.  

I spent about 40 minutes reading my current book.  

Then, I was so thrilled with how my day has gone, I decided to write this blog.  

So even though I spent 10 hours at work, and even though there were issues and things that could get me down, my shoes weren't suited for the impromptu 30 minute walk on the treadmill, my arms are sore from lifting weights, and my house isn't entirely clean, I'd say it's all about perspective.  I had a kinda sorta really perfect day.  There's only one more goal on my FitBit I have yet to hit - I'm at 4.5 of 5 miles.  So with that, I will sign off so I can do laps around my house until I hit that stupid goal and tire myself out to get another 8 hours of sleep.  

Monday, September 7, 2015

Rejuvenating Ways to Spend Labor Day Weekend

If you're not barbecuing or traveling this weekend, make the most of it so you don't look back on the three day weekend with regret.  Here are some ideas to return to your four day workweek rejuvenated. 

  • Review upcoming schedules for football games or theater shows you may want to go to, and buy tickets 

  • Get the family together, turn off the devices and play old fashioned board games or card games. I recommend Ticket to Ride and Rummikub!
  • Try out a new restaurant in your area
  • Go for a walk or hike
  • Evaluate your progress on any New Year Resolutions and reinvigorate your commitment for the rest of the year or set new goals
  • Reach out to a friend you haven't spoken to in a while
  • Clean out your garage or organize a room that's been needing it
  • Consider listing an extra room on Airbnb
  • Try cooking a new dish

How are you spending your no-work Monday?

Sunday, September 6, 2015

My Home of the Future

Long before I graduated college, I was inspired by HGTV shows to buy my own house, in order to renovate it and customize it to my liking.  I saved up money, while still in school, for my down payment, and fulfilled a quintessential American dream of buying a house on its own little property in a cozy neighborhood.  It was definitely a fixer-upper, not unlivable, but very much in need of love, updating and fixing.  But I very quickly learned how hard it is to modify and update an old house, built based on old requirements and technologies, and started yearning for the day I could build my dream house from scratch.  One of my favorite past times on Pinterest is to add photogenic pictures and novel ideas to my "Dream House Inspiration" board.  But for as much time as I spend dreaming about it, I hardly ever write about it.  Part of the reason is that there are SO MANY ideas out there, and it's a daunting task to think about sitting down and designing the perfect living space.  How many rooms are really needed?  If I could add a window here, would I really want to?  Or would it be convenient sometimes, and awful at others?  How luxurious can I make it while still being green and efficient?  How much automation will be available in the future? 

When I think about my dream house, I always imagine a ginormous basement, where a lot of the over-the-top expensive entertainment luxuries reside.  A wine cellar and cigar lounge (with proper ventilation), complete with old-world brick walls and chandeliers, and an embedded high-tech wine inventory system.  A bowling alley with at least two lanes, a bar and brick oven pizza kitchen, a kick-butt sound system, a pool table and retro arcade.  An in-house state-of-the-art theater for screening the latest movies or live football games, with a small stage in front in case we want to engage in live theater; the system would allow viewers to queue YouTube videos from their seats as well, and control the show from their phones.  The theater may also have a food and beverage delivery system built into the seats, so that users can order popcorn, chips and queso, a beer, a glass of wine, etc., and have it delivered through something like the old vacuum tubes of the banks directly to the seat, heated or chilled, sealed and ready to be served. 

I like the idea of having a large portion of the house underground for environmental purposes - the earth is a much better temperature insulator than the air above ground, and thus, heating and cooling and fully underground house would lead to almost negligible costs compared to heating and cooling a house all above ground.  I imagine a very modest-looking home above the surface; a two car garage and some rooms with windows just like my current house.  But when the two-car garage door is opened up, you see that it is not really a two-car garage at all, but a ramp down to a large garage that can hold up to 20 cars.  An elevator or stairway then takes me and my guests to the other underground floors of this underground mini-mansion.  The inherent problem with so much underground, besides the cost of digging, is that natural light is also very important to me.  Obviously the theater need not have natural light, nor even the bowling alley.  But where I read, write, work, cook, and play all would benefit from natural light.  So then I imagine huge networks of solar tubes and mirrors to bring that natural sunlight down below the surface.  Also, on the subject of heating and cooling, my feet are perpetually cold, so I would like heated floors in most main rooms. 

While being an underground mole has environmental benefits, I also have a love of stargazing that I strongly desire to be incorporated into my future master

bedroom.  I envision a large skylight opening up above my bed, allowing me to watch for meteors in the comfort of my bed.  Taking astronomy to another level, literally, I envision a skydeck being a big part of my future home, putting me above the city lights, with a full panoramic view of the night sky, comfy lounges to relax on, telescopes to use when I'm more actively gazing, equipment for awesome photography, and some kind of technology that can be activated to point out things like where Jupiter is and what constellation is where.  During the day, my skydeck can be used for sunbathing in the comfort of the climate control, reading and working or just generally taking a break. 

When it comes to the normal accessories of a house, like the kitchen, my desires are only slightly more practical.  The counter tops need to be at elbow height.  I haven't quite decided if that means they would be movable within a few inches to adjust to elbow height, or if I just make it at my elbow height because I have bad back and its my house.  I want more storage, like LOTS more storage, like this nifty idea to use a pull-out tie rack to hang pots and pans on.  And I want small appliances (toaster, toaster oven, George Foreman grill, waffle maker, crock pot, rice cooker) to have little cubby holes where they can be used without moving, but hidden when not in use.  I want more efficient appliances - ovens that have two compartments so I could cook a pizza while baking cookies or warming up a pie while the turkey is cooking, and dishwashers that similarly have two compartments so I could wash only whichever section is filled.  Assuming I don't have a robot or maid to empty the dishwasher, I would want it to be at a higher level, so that I don't hurt my back as much when loading and emptying it.  I'd also want a wine dispenser in which the bottles can be kept for days or weeks, while just pouring a glass at a time as I desire; maybe even a few beer taps for kegs as well.  I think it would be fun to have an ice maker / dispenser that dispensed different shapes of ice - I could
select which molds to freeze and it would build up inventories of each of those molds. And then there's this urban cultivator thing I saw once that I just don't think I could live without - it does all the growing for you to have fresh herbs and small vegetables right in your kitchen like an appliance.  If I liked lobster or seafood, I might similarly want a sizeable fish tank to keep dinner alive in for later, but that maybe not so necessary given my dislike of all things seafood.  But a fish tank for pets could be pretty sweet. 

I've been stuck on the bathroom for a long time; my love for baths driving my

indecision for what a perfect bath would be.  I would say that more often than not, I'd be bathing alone, so a one-person deep soaking bath with jets, a nice view, a fireplace, a TV, a book-holder, a table for dinner and a glass of wine, and an RO water spout sounds just about perfect.  But for the less frequent occasions I want my other half to join me in the bath, I'd need a bigger bath.  Yet I don't want to be wasting water when it's just me in the bath.  I've debated bath designs in which part of the bath could be comfortably blocked off when not in use with a water-proof barrier that is visually appealing.  Or perhaps I just need multiple baths, one for just me to be my primary, a love bath for when I want my honey with me, and a party bath, maybe on the rooftop or in the skydeck, for multiple guests.  For the showers, I would want either a small TV or streaming device like a tablet built into the wall with a
waterproof barrier to allow me to see the traffic and weather, watch the news or a Ted talk, listen to music, or practice a new language.  As for the toilets, I want bidets integrated with regular toilets, and maybe urinals because, urnials!  I don't know.  I definitely would want more clever ways to store all the different bathroom-y stuff that needs to be stored. 

Cleaning is practically the bane of my existence; a lot of things have storage places in which to be put away, and brought out only as needed, but I don't like putting things away.  I like to have them handy, but that clutters up my house.  As such, my dream house would have less of this non-functional storage, and more functional spaces.  I was inspired by a documentary on some celeb's mansion to have a gift wrapping room.  No joke, this lady actually had three such rooms, one for birthdays, one for showers and one for holidays, if I remember correctly.  The walls of each room were stockpiled with beautiful wrapping paper, ribbons, bows, gift tags and other decorations, and in the center of each room was a large work desk, complete with the scissors, pens, markers and tape needed to wrap pretty much any gift imaginable.  I think she even had some kind of bow maker.  I don't need three rooms, but one such room would be nice.  I'd probably also want some lockable storage to stash gifts away until it was time to wrap them.  Likewise, I have crafty hobbies that make a mess, but I don't do them so often that I have designated stations in my modest home currently.  I would love to have one giant craft room with storage for all my different materials, an ironing board, cutting board (for fabric), a workbench with a sewing machine section and free space for other hobbies, a wall of spindles, a wall of paints and brushes and easels, maybe a screen printer and some other neato craft-related tools.  I have converted a bedroom in my house to something of this nature already, but it just doesn't seem to be big enough.  I'd also want a TV in the room and a loungey area so that my honey could come spend time in the room while I'm working.  Like my love of crafting, I also enjoy building more durable objects, like headboards.  So I think it would be pretty awesome to have a full workshop with a table saw, jigsaw, circular saw, tile saw, etc.  The workshop would also be attached to the garage and have car lifts so I can pull my car in and work on it.  I'd also want a library, because as techno-savvy as I am, I also like to have
books I can pull off the shelf and reference, or shut down devices and just read.  The library, I imagine, would need a number of comfortable pieces of furniture, like chaise lounges, hammocks, and rope nets, all with with individual lights / natural light overhead or behind where the reader would sit.  On the topic of cleaning, I would also want recycling chutes and maybe even laundry chutes to make cleaning as easy as possible. 

My central living space always seems to be cluttered, not just with projects and crafts, but so many devices, books, food, Legos, latest purchases, and paper.  Having unique rooms for certain functions would definitely alleviate some of this clutter, but I suspect not all.  I think my central family room / living space would need to just be big, with lots of shelving, under-sofa storage, tables, recycling chutes, and an entertainment system that can accommodate all the game systems, streaming and recording devices and audio equipment we would want to have.  And a fireplace, because even though I don't light fires, I need a mantel to hang my Christmas stockings on each winter.  My very fictional dream for the Christmas tree may not come to fruition, but I always imagined a false floor and a lift underneath that would store the tree, fully decorated, for most of the year, but when it was time to put the tree up, I'd literally flip a switch and the tree would rise through the false floor.  Maybe I take the ornaments off every year, so that I'd have the freedom of choosing which theme to go with every November, but we'd be spared the challenge of actually assembling a fake tree, and the resulting cuts and scrapes.  Is that too much to ask for? 

Because health and exercise are simultaneously important to me and hard for me to get motivated for, I would want to have a few features that make it really, really easy and fun to exercise.  An indoor pool, I think, is necessary for a dream house, because it can be used year round, and is free from weather like rain or excessive heat.  That alone might do it for me, but I'd also want an exercise bike and weight room with a great entertainment system so I can get my exercise on while multi-tasking, watching my favorite TV shows, documentaries, TED talks or YouTube videos.  And since dance is so important to me, I'd want a modest dance studio with a fantastic wood floor, and maybe even a tumbling floor to practice aerials or gymnastics on, and to stretch on.  The dance studio would have mirrors on both sides, and a TV screen to stream practice videos on so I can follow along.  These two rooms would have to have their own climate control so I could make it really, really cold in there while using them without spending the money to cool the whole house.  I think both rooms would also be equipped with an RO water fountain and a Powerade fountain. 

Then there's musical aspirations in my life.  I used to play a few instruments and sing, and my honey is studying to be an audio engineer, and also plays (and aspires to play) lots of instruments.  So I think it's only natural we'd have a sound-proofed recording studio with all the fancy mixers and whatnot, but also a place to display and store the collection of instruments we've amassed. 

I'm also totally nuts, and I want a slide and a fireman's pole that extends at least two, if not three, stories.  I haven't figured out if a fireman's pole is also fit for pole dancing, but if its not, then I would also want a couple strategically placed poles for pole dancing as well.  Maybe a water slide, too.  And a rockwall.  A rockwall that goes up to the top of the slide?  Or maybe there's a rope at the top that you use to swing down into a pit of sponges or plastic balls or spaghetti.  I don't know.  But I want my house to be crazy fun, all the time.  I also want secret passage ways or hidden rooms.  I literally have dreams about a two-bedroom, one-bathroom suite behind my refrigerator, and a party lounge
that is reached only by going through a door in the back of a closet.  Neither of these seem practical, but things like secret doors in stairs, bookshelves disguising doors and push-this-brick passageways have always intrigued me.  I also like spiral staircases, a lot. 

I'd of course want some guest accommodations, but not so comfortable that they never leave.  I'm thinking capsules, bunk beds and Murphy beds. 

Clearly, I spend a lot more time thinking about the features of my dream house than about the layout and structure.  But if you look at my Pinterest board, a lot of the images are different styles, architectures, and designs.  While one of my inclinations, as previously described, is a modest house above ground, I have a weird obsession with turrets.  And the last house I lived in with my parents had a big two-story window which I loved dearly come Christmas time, because we had this stunning 12 foot tree centered in the window, and you could see it from blocks away.  Thus, these two architectural features contradict my modest above-ground house idea, and drive more of what I want from the outside of the house. 

As far as a yard goes, I absolutely hate yard work, probably even moreso than cleaning indoors.  So the landscaping needs to be either minimal effort to maintain, or I would need a landscaper.  I have enjoyed staying with friends who have fruit trees and can go out and pick their breakfast, so maybe fruit trees plus a landscaper is what is needed.  I would like some fake grass for me to roll around in, and my dog needs a yard to do her business in.  Beyond that, I've envisioned little reading nooks in canopies with hammocks or mattresses, and outdoor grills, even outdoor baths and such, but I'm not sold that I need any of those since I'm not usually comfortably outside for long. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

DIY: Cinch Bags

Cinch bags are super easy-to-make accessories that are surprisingly handy.  I keep my small beauty care items, like chapstick, tweezers, and hair bands, in my cinch bag so they don't get lost in my purse.  Cinch bags can be made for gifts with a personal touch, or for easy fundraisers that also develop sewing skills.  I like to make my cinch bags with different but complementary fabric patterns.  You can make them with as much personality, or as simple, as you want. 
Materials needed:
Four (4) 8" x 8" pieces of fabric
1 1/2' parachute string or thin ropes
Pins, thread, scissors and general sewing supplies

1.  Start with four pieces of fabric cut to 8" x 8".  Test swatches from Spoonflower are great for this purpose.  You can also pick up small cuts of fabrics at your local craft or sewing supply store. 

2.  Decide which pieces you want to go on the outside and which you want to go on the inside.  Put one inside fabric and one outside fabric back to back and line them up. 

3.  Pin the two fabrics together.   

4.  Start sewing the first edge starting about 1 1/2" down from the top.  Sew the complete bottom edge, and the back up the other side up to the same point (about 1 1/2" from the top).  

5.  Sew two lines across the top, leaving about 1/2" in between and some room on the top.  This is where the string or rope will go through later, and the fabric on top will be the ruffles.  

6.  Repeat steps 2 - 5 with your other pair of fabrics.  

7.  Now, pair up the fabrics so that the patterns you want on the outside are on the inside and vice-versa.  You will sew the bag inside out and then flip it so that the seams are on the inside.  

8.  Sew around the two sides and the bottom, but not the top.  Then turn the bag inside out.  

9.  Tape the end of the string to the end of a pencil, and use it to thread the string through the channels you made at the top.  You'll want one string to connect on each side.  

10.  When both strings are through both sides of the bag, tie the loose ends together.  Pull the knots in opposite directions, and check out your work!  

Here are some combinations of fabrics to inspire you!  

Pumpkin carving 

Thanksgiving and football

Technically Speaking
My circuit patterns are very popular, with lots of sizes and colors to choose from!

Jurassic Patterns

Check out my other fabric patterns for even more!