Monday, April 26, 2010

LW Monday - Multitasking FAILs

Blessings, Darlings!

Way back when I started blogging the Life Wellness series I mentioned that you should approach these wellness suggestions one at a time, spending about 3 weeks integrating that ONE thing into your life. Given that most of us - myself included - started this process needing improvement in so many wellness areas, why didn't I have everyone jump in with everything at once?

First, because it would have been one terribly long blog post, covering EVERYTHING in wellness. You'd still be reading it. Heck, I'd still be writing it, so I guess you wouldn't have read ANY of it!

Second, and the topic of this blog post, is that people have trouble when they try to focus on too much. Yes, we can juggle two, maybe three, things at once. We can handle them better if they are split between long term and short term projects. But put too much in the pile and the pile come tumbling down.

And EVERYTHING, no matter what the priority, gets delayed. Let me show you ....

Let's say that you have 4 projects going, and you're trying to multitask and do them all at once. Let's FURTHER say, for simplicity, that there is no down-time in switching between the tasks. You will INSTANTLY be able to go from one to the other, no time lost putting away one set of files and getting another out, or cleaning and putting away the gardening tools and changing clothes to exercise, or having to try to remember where you were on the project you're changing to. And isn't that last one one HECK of an assumption? There's one FAIL right there!

So, again, 4 projects. Say it will take 3 days per project. Let's map that out as multitasked, putting even amounts of time (in days) per project 'so you get at least a little done on each'.

Project 1 = 1
Project 2 = 2
Project 3 = 3
Project 4 = 4

Dang, I'm creative, aren't I?

Four projects multitasked in days:

1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4

Twelve days. And you don't even finish the FIRST project until day 9.

Instead, do one of them at a time, and getting things DONE looks like this:

1 1 1 2 2 2 3 3 3 4 4 4

Twelve days, still. But Project 1 is done on day 3 instead of day 9. Project 2 is done day 6 instead of day 10. Project 3 is done by day 9 instead of day 11. Project 4 is still done by day 12, no change there.

But look at the great changes in dates done on those first three project JUST by not trying to do them all at once!


Giving credit where credit is due: I was taught about this by Dr. Lisa Lang's webinars on Stompernet.

Frondly, Fern

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Disaster Dishwashing

Blessings, Darlings!

I've not done a Prepper Post in a while, but the Mercury Retrograde having thrown me some lemons, it's time for blog lemonade.

You see, along with the other things that have screwed up, my dishwasher decided to start leaking. Not a small leak, either - it rather resembles the tide coming in. So until the ordered gaskets come in and we install them, we're doing dishes the traditional way. By hand. By MY hand(s), to be precise. For the record - I HATE doing dishes. When the husband and I first started housekeeping together, it was supposed to be his job. I got bathrooms and laundry. Which meant that within a month husband had gotten a dishwasher. But none of that actually pertains to this post..... Sorry for that digression....

In fact, sanitation issues around dishes are going to be pretty critical in times of crisis. The paper plates we'll all use at first will run out, and we're going to have to actually start using and washing real dishes. Which means we have to do it WELL to prevent illness and we have to to it EFFICIENTLY because we might be hauling the water and heating it in pots over fires.

History Time #1

Disease and dishes: I hope it's already clear to everyone that re-using dirty dishes can easily cause food-borne illnesses, so I don't have to go into that. I read somewhere - without attribution even then - that automatic dishwashers have lead to a huge reduction in food born illness. Certainly one of my instructors in college (my degree in is public health) felt that the hot water used in the final rinse of a dishwasher was important and hotter than folks use when hand washing.

Practical Application of History: Heat the water - especially the rinse water

Washing dishes in hot water makes soap more effective, more quickly softens dried on foods, and melts fats so they are more easily washable. So, absolutely, washing in hot water is good.

But if you have limited hot water .... concentrate on rinsing the dishes in as hot water as you can get, to sanitize them as much as possible.

History Time #2

Back in the day, when I was in middle school Home Economics class, the teacher carefully taught us to wash things in the Proper Order. That order was: first - things that touch your mouth like flatware and glasses; second - things that cooked food sit on, such as plates and serving items; finally - everything else.

But those were the days before common use of plastics. Plastics are picky - they are both harder to dry and grease/oils really stick to them. If you wash them after you've washed knives with butter on them, or plates with meat fats, you're not going to easily be able to clean them. Remember those Dawn dish detergent commercials, where after the greasy pans are clean the last glass is found and washed? Notice that it was glass, not plastic? There's a reason for that!

A Modern Dilemma

So tonight as I face the mountain of dishes should I first wash the pesky plastics or the things that touch my mouth?

Practical Application of History: Gravity Always Works

I've let gravity make the decision for me.

Look, if I do the dang plastics first, they will fill the drainer AND be hard to dry. If I try to do the glasses after them ... the glasses aren't going to fit well in the drainer. They are likely to obey the Law of Gravity. They will shift. They will fall. They will find a way to fall onto the floor and break.

Therefore, it's glasses and china plates/bowls/etc first, followed by flatware. They are then topped by the washed plastics, and finally the pots and pans.

History Time #3

Hauling water is hard work. Heating water takes rather a lot of energy, and a not inconsiderable amount of time.

Practical application of History: Minimize the water needed

Amazingly enough, the best way to conserve water is by having 3 water tubs.

First water tub, with as little as a half gallon of water, is for first rinse after eating. Get off what you can, fast! If you're not doing the dishes at that time (maybe you're washing dishes once a day, to conserve the number of times you haul and heat water, eh?) save that water for pre-wash moistening of dishes to prep anything dried on.

Second tub, the washing tub. This is warm or hot, and has dish detergent in it. I use about 6 cups for this (family of 3, washing after dinner). The water CAN get stone cold by the time I'm done washing, but I don't really care if the cat dishes are washed in cold water!

Third tub, rinse tub. Six to 8 cups of the hottest water available and safe to use. I wear plastic gloves at this point of time, so it's probably 160 degrees F.

One trick - the rinse water does NOT get dumped after I'm done with dishes. This is saved and used for the 'first tub' the next time I wash dishes. It is also used to wash out the sink before I do dishes, and wash the other tub before filling it with soap and water. Obviously it gets washed between being used as prep water and rinse water!

There you have it. This is how I do dishes, conserving water and energy for heating water, while doing my best to make sure that we prevent dish/etc related food born illnesses.

Frondly, Fern

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Uterus-Free Womanhood

Blessings, Darlings!

Three years ago this summer I had a hysterectomy. No 'emergency' - I just couldn't stand the problems my fibroids were causing, menopause was NOT happening to cure them, and I had put off dealing with the problem so long that removing just the fibroids was not an option.

So I joined the ranks of women who are missing one or more 'woman bits'.

I thought it odd when my High Priestess asked me if I had any issues like "I'm less of a woman without a uterus". That hadn't even occurred to me. Now, being a human in US society had I had one or both breasts removed I was sure I'd have become even MORE body conscious, and even MORE convinced that my body didn't measure up - but not that I was less of a woman.

That said ... suddenly a year had passed since the hysterectomy, and I hadn't gone into trance and 'reacquainted' myself with my belly. So I prepared to do that, and realized that I felt that there was a 'hole' there. How odd, I felt. Sure, the uterus had been as big as if I was 5 months pregnant, but I didn't consciously realize that I visualized a 'hole' there. Into trance I went ...and found that in physical and spiritual reality there was no hole, no empty spot. My inner organs, squeezed for space for 8 years, had re-alligned and were comfortably spread out in their rightful places, while part of my mind hadn't realized that. My ovaries, which the doctor left in place to continue their fairly slow decline into menopause, were still functioning happily if a little pebbly.

Wow. No hole. But the ovaries reacted to the attention by kicking back into hot flash mode. Nothing major - in fact, they are great over the winters.

Still, I'm clear that I'm no less a woman for not having a uterus. My cousins who have lost breasts to breast cancer are no less women for having lost them (and one totally delayed her mastectomy until she could have the BEST doctor at replacement implants on her team - which I felt was a interesting way of asserting that she was going to live and live WELL after treatment).

Body parts don't define what a woman is. Not for us cis-women, with or without all our parts. Not for trans-women, at whatever stage they are at. Womanhood is in the spirit, the mind, the soul.

Live it!

Frondly, Fern

Monday, April 19, 2010

Life Wellness - Fridays Are For Menu Planning

Blessings, Darlings!

I'm writing this on Friday, but (Blogger scheduling willing) it will get posted on Monday.

What day of the week do you do your weekly/biweekly menu planning on? Uh, what? You don't plan them a week or more in advance? Oh, dear - menu planning is pretty easy, and I think it's vitally important for both physical and financial wellness reasons.

If you don't have a set food budget, and if you don't menu plan, you will easily spend twice as much as you would spend with a budget and planning.

If you don't plan your meals, you will let your wild untamed appetite decide what you will eat every meal. And on the whole, your appetite will choose things that are fast, fatty, and sweet. It's going to say "Feed me! Now! Pizza or wings, or a burger, fries and a shake, or.... all of them! Now!" Even if you're vegan, it's going to go for fried onion rings fast rather than have you cut and stirfry veggies and tofu and make a brown sauce.

So, let's plan!

First stop is to do a check of the fridge for leftovers. Here, today, that means lots of smoked brisket (that I spent 9+ hours on yesterday - we do NOT do this often!), a over a quart of chili, a huge cabbage, 3 cups of rice, 8 apples, 8 oranges, a quart of vanilla yogurt, half a dozen eggs, a pound of sliced turkey breast, etc.

Okay - lunches are in place (the chili & turkey breast), and three dinners (the brisket will be used for great BBQ sandwiches one day, and fried rice another day - I'll freeze the rest for one meal a week until the end of May, and omelettes).

A check of the freezer - lots of beef, one small frozen chunk of raw salmon, assorted chicken pieces, egg roll filling, raw pork destined for chinese dumplings (very time intensive!), lots of stock, lots of bacon (it was on sale recently), lot of chicken livers destined for rumaki (again, time intensive), leftover lamb roast, lots of spinach, some broccoli and beans, a big bag of mixed veggies, etc.

I only do ONE very time intensive meal a week.

Now, food ads - what's on sale? None of the stores here start their sales the same day, which is irritating but a fact of life. Let's see - whole chickens are at a good price, but I'll have to buy two. Okay. Pasta. Great! Our family's favorite pasta sauce. Well, that sounds like a plan, doesn't it?

Breakfasts are covered - we have plenty of hot and cold cereal already in place.

So - assorted chicken out of freezer will be fried for dinner tonight, cabbage the veg, rice with it all. Saturday, leftover BBQ on rolls with slaw. Sunday baked chicken, green beans, baked potatoes. Monday, Omelets, salad, fruit. Tuesday Beef fried rice and fruit. Wednesday sushi, miso soup, sprout salad, fruit. Thursday crepes (leftover chicken ones and spinach ones) and salad. Lamb Stew and salad Friday. Pizza Saturday (we've one I brought back from Chicago still in the freezer). Sunday Spag and sauce, salad, Broccoli.

Shopping list: 3 gallons of milk, 2 chickens, bananas, avocados, lettuce, broc, cucumber, a few apples and oranges, orange juice, 4 pounds butter (Costco or BJ's), half & half, eggs, sliced cheese, several bottles of spag sauce, and hubs wants beer. Totals about $70.

No bread, tho' we'll be eating it - I'll make those and don't need flour (I bought it on sale before Easter). One of the chickens will be cut up and go into the freezer for later meals.

And, yes, I've planned meals and made the shopping list for more than just one week. I'm WAY under budget, since I don't need any cleaning supplies or cat food just now - with those things in I allow myself up to $100 a week.

Being under now is how I save money to do the bulk beef and pork buying, the stocking up when things are on really amazing sales, and the splurges we sometimes have.

Potential diet busters this week are the fried chicken (but I'll be baking my piece), the crepes, and the pizza. Pizza I'm handling by splitting one pizza meant for 2 people among 3 people.

The crepes I'm just going to enjoy, but I'll have a bowl of soup as well as a salad before the main course. And I'll probably add a separate vegetable serving of steamed carrots to kick up the color, nutrition, and dilute the fat calories.

See? That wasn't so hard. Just took a few minutes to check what is on hand, what is on sale (oh - I have bookmarked local stores ad pages, but I also get the ads delivered each week in the free local paper), and have at it.

What's on your menu?

Frondly, Fern

Friday, April 16, 2010

I'm a KitchenAid Slut

Hi. My name is Fern, and I'm a KitchenAid slut.

For years I eschewed getting this tool. I kneaded all my bread by hand. I mixed my batters by hand or with cheap, small, underpowered hand mixers. I was hands on! I was ecologically minded! I avoided using electricity and tools where they weren't needed!

Being .... me .... that is, cheap .... I go to a lot of garage sales (after mapping the newspaper listings out using a map, to save gas going from one to the next). A few years ago at a garage sale near city hall .... there was a Kitchenaid standing mixer for sale. With most of the most important part - the blending paddle, the dough hook, the whisk, the pouring shield. Wish it had the meat grinder, but.... Anyway, it was $70. I NEVER spend that much at garage sales. I tried to pass it up. I even called the husband, who said I was nuts if I DID pass it up.

How good a bargain is this? A friend of my friend Jess found one for Jess, sans the pouring shield, for $100, and Jess got teary over THAT bargain.

The Kitchenaid came home with me.

But it didn't get used.

I guess I was intimidated. Again, I had spent a LOT of money. But I had a history of doing my hand made foods .... literally by hand. It was new to me. It wasn't my tradition.

Fortunately, my son didn't have my history. He took a look at it, and took a look at a few episodes of America's Test Kitchen (ATK), and started baking. Chocolate cake, of course. With chocolate frosting (but for that he used the $6 garage sale food processor, that I also use).

I kind of snuck up on the idea of actually USING the thing by watching my son use it. And by watching Alton Brown use them on Good Eats, and Christopher Kimball use them on ATK.

It was the ATK recipe for Pizza Bianca that drove me to actually start using the mixer. Not that I exactly followed the recipe (forgive me, Christopher Kimball, for I have sinned. And I sinned beautifully). I used the mixer for the pizza dough, but did the toppings for the Chicken Flatbread pizza from our favorite (and now dead) restaurant, the Pomo Grill.

It rocked. It rocked unbelievably.

Today, I have two types of bread rising, both batches started in that Kitchenaid stand blender. Mixing and kneading is done in a fraction of the time of doing it by hand, and I'm never tempted to underknead.

I've become 'easy'. I'm just a Kitchaid Slut.

Frondly, Fern

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

And The Gods Laughed.....

Blessings, Darlings!

Long ago, in a city far, far away - okay, in the 1960's in Chicago's north suburbs - my father was trying to help me grow into a financially secure adult. So he tried his best to convince me to grow up to be a teacher. He reasoned that teachers had secure jobs. And, of course, I'm a chick and teaching is a 'woman's job'. Two of his sisters were teachers, after all. His other sister was .... a lawyer. The first woman to graduate in law from the college she went to. For that matter, HE was a lawyer. And one of his brothers a doctor. And the last brother a chemist, or a chemical engineer, I've forgotten which.

But I was sure I'd HATE to teach. I hated the kids I was in school with - this was back in elementary school. I hated the idea of going over the same basic crap year after year. I didn't think I'd like to GIVE tests any more than I liked TAKING tests.

Years passed. My father died not too many years later, while I was still in middle school/junior high school. I .... uh ..... took my time in getting thru' college, changed majors about 5 times, dropped out and worked as a secretary for a while, finally got my degree, and worked for years in shelters with homeless and abused women. My degree? Oh, Health Education. Not that I was ever in a school environment. I STILL didn't want to go near that!

Time passed. I had the Spawn. The first 6 weeks of parenting were the hardest 6 weeks of my life, in part because of the c-section (and I was working with the obgyn with the lowest intervention rate in the area! We went 45 hours from when my water burst 'till the c-section) and in part because in that time my father in law was diagnosed with terminal cancer and died all in that time period.

I went back to work when the Spawn was 6 weeks old. He came to work with me every day - he had an assortment of physical delays, he wasn't tearing up the shelter, he was pretty passive, so he was no problem. He loved sitting in his car seat on a desk top, surveying the staff and clients, being talked to. Husban lost his job. When Spawn was 9 months old we moved. I became a stay at home mom.

But he had all these delays, and I didn't have a diagnosis for him, or any clear idea on how to help him. And his speech delay was frustrating BOTH of us. At 2 1/2 Spawn started special ed preschool, where he became a special ed poster child. He was in regular school for kindergarten.

And I began to think about home schooling. Not because of any experience we'd had in the schools - our experience was great. The teachers were great. The school population was multicultural, which I loved. Schools were close and I volunteered regularly. In fact, our local school was a math/science magnet school, and my son was a year ahead in math and loved it all.

Okay, later he had a math teacher that was MISERABLE for a whole lot of reasons. But I was already interested in homeschooling by then.

But I was already picking up that the schools were socializing the students for old fashioned factory jobs, for blind obedience to bells, etc. I didn't like that the group had to move at the speed of the slowest student. I REALLY hated it when they stopped letting him be a year ahead in math, and he had a miserable bored year.

Husband was NOT thinking about home schooling. Sigh.

But then came middle school. And son had a MISERABLE experience there, due to some teachers who were overwhelmed (school was terribly overcrowded) and may have had other personal issues, and because of bullying. By the end of those two years, Spawn was depressed and felt like a failure. And clearly had ADD and the school hadn't helped us deal with that at all. By middle school, apparently the lost children are supposed disappear, not be helped. He was doing college level work in math and science, and 5th or 6th grade work in reading comprehension and writing.

High school, in the same system, in a school just as overcrowded, terrified us all.

We chose home schooling.

It wasn't a smooth transition. Oh, the first 6 weeks were great - the opposite of the first six weeks of his life! I packed him and camping equipment in the car and we drove the Oregon Trail. Along the way we also visited a ton of the pagans I had met in the chat rooms on Prodigy. We did lots of history, map reading, meeting folks of all different ages/backgrounds, geography, etc. For example, in Casper, we met my online friend Sharon, and her husband led us on a person and detailed tour of Fort Casper and the Fort Casper museum, where he volunteered. In California, Sarah and John, dispite having a VERY new baby, welcomed us and treated the Spawn as a valued equal, worthy of having opinions an being involved in games and conversations.

But I had a hard time finding great textbooks (other than the full set of freshman English text books I'd gotten from a friend who led a high school English department). The Spawn was so disspirited from problems he had in writing that I didn't have him do much writing that entire year. All that got easier over time.

What we really did that first year was work on getting him and me organized. He learned to be in control of his schooling, assignments, life. I learned how to help him learn.

One day I looked at my life and said "Oh, Crap - I'm a school teacher!"

And The Gods Laughed......

Frondly, Fern

Monday, April 12, 2010

Life Wellness Monday - How Ya Doing?

Blessings, Darlings!

Here’s an update on how I’m doing on my personal Wellness, since I’ve been blogging about it for the past few months.

Exercise: Been doing it more, not yet up to where I want to end up.
Weights: doing upper body routine twice a week, have gotten past the tendonitis in my left forearm.
Aerobics: Slowed by knee pain that kicked in when I increased the height of the aerobic step. But now it’s a bit less, and doesn’t seem to get worse by step aerobics as long as I just do the old up/down – it’s more a problem with lateral movements. So I’m back to step aerobics a few times a week. Asthma less of a problem since I started to exercise, even with the record amounts of pollen in the air!

Meditation: Was doing daily until the last couple of weeks.

Stress reduction: House we live in was auctioned at courthouse (landlord didn’t pay mortgage), so CAUSES of stress are still there. I’m way calmer, handling stress better.

Financial Wellness: I’ve been going thru’ personal financial papers and such. Posted about the health insurance findings a few days ago. Dropped Long Distance on the business line, we use cell phones for that, except for faxing. Now if we fax – and we haven’t faxed OUT in weeks – we’ll just switch the fax to the house line, which has inexpensive LD still. It was $25 a month to have Long Distance on business line (plus any calls) and it’s $15 a month for Long Distance on the house line (plus calls). HOWEVER – now Verizon has offered a plan for unlimited local plus LD for about what we pay for local only. So may make that change.
May change the husband and son’s cell phone plans, have to do a BIT more research.
Have paid down some bills, have organized paying them down by highest interest rates.

Eating healthy food: Didn’t make enough changes that actually stuck. Yeah, the only beef I’m eating is organic/pastured/etc, but that’s the only change that stayed. I’m hoping that summer fruits and veggies entice more changes! I AM eating all those beans/lentils/etc, of course…..

And how are all y'all doing? Time to check in!

Frondly, Fern

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Winter to Summer

Blessings, Darlings!

It's that time of year when I switch my freezer from winter mode to summer mode. Which means that I'm converting all the bones into stock while the weather is cool that I don't run the air conditioning while I reduce the stock for hours.

It also means that any empty space in the freezers are being filled with bags of ice cubes. You see, we had our first Violent Spring Storms the other night - lightening, wind, vicious rain, everything except the tornados. Storms like this bring trees down. Trees down bring down power lines. Downed power lines mean freezers thaw. But they thaw slower if they are full, and ice cubes fill them and are useful in day to day life as well.

I also know where to get dry ice if the power goes, and have a generator, but I really like to cover my bases. And my husband REALLY like REALLY cold drinks. Like in mid summer he puts ice in his milk.


Frondly, Fern

This Kid Can Kill a Diet

Blessings, Darlings!

My beloved Spawn is making dinner tonight. He has a craving for Fettuccine Alfredo. Full of cream and butter and white flour noodles. And saute'd shrimp and clams.

I love it. But it's not at all healthy! Or cheap, for that matter.

So he and his dad will have the pasta and a salad. I'm having vegetable soup, salad, the delightful pasta, steamed asparagus, and strawberries for dessert. My hope is that I won't have room for a second serving of the fettuccine. A similar plan worked yesterday, when I didn't have seconds on the main course of dinner by eating an extra orange.

Monday, April 5, 2010

LW MONDAY: Finances - Insurance

Blessings, Darlings!

Yeah, I know that most of you Americans who read this are preoccupied with taxes right now. But while I'm writing on Financial Wellness today, it's not taxes that I'm writing about. It's the equally-confusing area of INSURANCE.

Since almost all blogging is personal, this was brought on by the health insurance company we currently have our business policy with sending us our renewal. And 20% rate increase. And since I was rather depressed and non-fuctional last year when we renewed I didn't notice that they had cut what they cover - from a $10/20/40 plan for drugs to a '75% coinsurance' plan.

Ya know how coinsurance USED to mean that if you were married and your spouse ALSO had insurance on you, claims would be split between the companies? That's not what it means now. "Coinsurance" NOW is code for 'copay'.


But it does explain why I've been paying a fortune for the drugs I'm trying to improve my health in order to get off of.

So - I'm suggesting that if you haven't check over ALL your insurance policies lately, it's time you did. Health, life, long term disability, homeowners/renters, car, whatever you have.

And shop around. It's not as hard to do now that you can do it online. I remember helping a friend shop around for his first car insurance in high school. I had to do it by phone, calling a multitude of agents for different companies. It took forever. OTOH, even then I could do it from the comfort of my room.

So far, in the few hours I've spend today - Easter, by the way. Happy Easter to those who celebate it - I've identified a new plan with a different company that looks like it will be both less expensive and cover my meds more. Take THAT, current company! I have till June 1 to lock a new plan in place, so I can fully research everything.

Go forth and be wonderful!

Frondly, Fern