Monday, December 24, 2012

On doing the dishes.

With holiday cooking in full swing, it seems every time I turn around there's another mountain of dishes in my sink.

I wrote this country western song in 2005, but lately it's been on my mind again, so I present it to you! Here, have some doggerel on a Monday morning. Merry Christmas if that is your thing; Happy New Year if that is; enjoy your winter as the days get slowly longer. May all your dishes be done by housekeeping elves.

A Sink Full of Dishes and a Heart Full of Sorrow
(to be sung with a twang, preferably by Jeannie C. Riley)

A sink full of dishes and a heart full of sorrow,
I should wash them tonight, but I'll wait till tomorrow. 

The water is dirty and my feeet will get tired,
my sink drain smells like milk that's expired. 

A sink full of dishes and a heart full of pain,
As soon as I wash them, they're dirty again. 

My fingers get wrinkly, my resolve comes unglued
when faced with the caked-on nasty old food. 

A sink full of dishes and a heart full of woe,
I'll let the mold flourish and allow it to grow. 

The water will splash and ruin my clothes.
The kitchen is tricky. I might stub my toes.

A sink full of dishes and a heart full of sorrow,
I should wash them tonight, but I'll wait till tomorrow. (2x)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

On Before and After Photos, and incidentally also pomegranates and vertical fold.

Many organizational apps exist for the iPhone - some with a focus on gamification, such as SuperBetter and UnF*** Your Habitat; some that just help you Do The Thing, such as Pocket Lists and Stylebook.

I must say, however, that the iPhone app I find the most beneficial to my organizing is the one that allows me to create Before and After photos.

A while ago, I was reading about the convenience of the vertical fold for t-shirt storage. BOOM.
It was, in fact, the before picture that motivated me to bother folding. And the vertical fold really is better than the horizontal! I have kept up with it. No backsliding. 

Similarly, I recently found out from my Smart Friend Jocelyn how to open a pomegranate without mangling the seeds, losing a lot of juice, and staining my clothing in the process. She basically advises this technique, but scoring quarters rather than fifths. I did quarters. Now, this may be one of those things that everyone else has always known how to do, but for me it was a revelation. SCORE THE SKIN! Okay, then. And once again, the photos (this time process photos, not just before and after) add a layer of satisfaction that would not have existed otherwise.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Delicious Vegetarian Proteins (not beans)

The other day, my boyfriend came into the room after talking to his mom on the phone. He told me she was starting to think about holiday cooking, and would like to know more about vegetarian proteins ... other than beans. I felt pretty prepared to comply with this request. While I love beans and find them to be both versatile and delicious, I do try to vary my protein intake. Since she had already considered beans, I used them as my protein exchange.* 

Below is what I sent her, but I would LOVE additional suggestions in the comments! Also, should I do a companion post on beans next week? Beans are so good. 

High protein, easy and delicious: Zucchini quiche made with eggs, low fat mozzarella, and parmesan.
The deal with vegetarian protein is to get a lot of it without overdosing on something else in the process. For instance, four cups of cooked kale, two baked potatoes with skin on, four tablespoons of peanut butter  - 
each of these contain as much protein as a cup of beans, but present other nutritional annoyances. Eating that much kale at once would exhaust my jaw. Two baked potatoes at once sounds like I'd need a carbs nap after, and four tablespoons of peanut butter would be half the daily recommended fat intake, right there.

Here are some protein servings I've found to be reasonable:
  • A serving of two jumbo eggs has about as much protein as a cup of beans.
  • A cup of prepared quinoa (a seed that is served like a grain) has about as much protein as a cup of beans.
  • A cup of cottage cheese has over four times as much protein as a cup of beans.
  • A serving of four ounces of tofu has about as much protein as a cup of beans.
  • A serving of six ounces of Greek yogurt has about one and a half times as much protein as a cup of beans.
Wheat-based carbs:

  • A serving of one and a half cups of spaghetti contains as much protein as a cup of beans.
  • One large plain bagel has about as much protein a cup of beans.
Cheeses: Cottage cheese aside, it is generally true that the harder the cheese, the more protein it contains. The softer the cheese is, the more protein you are trading for fat.
  • A serving of two ounces of Cheddar has about as much protein as a cup of beans.
  • It would take four ounces of Ricotta to get that much protein, but
  • only a little over an ounce of hard parmesan cheese to equal the protein in a cup of beans.
  • Cream cheese and Brie, while technically cheeses, are basically nutritionally equivalent to flavored butter. It would take an ENTIRE CUP of cream cheese to equal the protein in a cup of beans.
Fake Meats: If you'd like to go the fake meat route, I enjoy the following:
  • Three little Morningstar Farms sausage links have about as much protein as a cup of beans.
  • One Boca burger has about as much protein as a cup of beans.
  • Seitan, kind of high-maintenance to prepare, has tons of protein, too: a four ounce serving has twice as much protein as a cup of beans.
WARNING: Meaty textures without meaty protein:
Mushrooms and eggplant, while they are often served as meat substitutes, have negligible protein contents. It would take seven cups of raw mushrooms or 15 cups of cooked eggplant to approximate the protein content in a cup of beans. I eat them because they are delicious and have other nutritional benefits, but I don't pretend they are high in protein. 

I consulted the following websites' nutrition information in developing these calculations:

  • Beans themselves vary in protein content, from chickpeas at about 12 grams per cup to soy beans and cannellini at about 16 grams per cup. For these calculations I aimed at the middle, but all amounts are approximate.
  • For additional reference, a serving of one and a half ounces of chicken breast has about as much protein as a cup of beans.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Break down tasks into manageable chunks.

Many organizational systems advise separating large projects into parts, making each part of the project a separate to-do list task. This makes it less daunting to approach a big project, and easier to see progress while working on one. It can also help avoid scope creep. I totally do this with big projects, for instance when I have massive amounts of grading - I'll write "mark 10 papers!" on my to-do list three times (instead of writing "mark 30 papers!" once, or even writing just "mark papers!" a few times). That way I can budget three smaller and easier units of time, and each time there is an exact goal to meet.

I have realized recently, however, that I work better when I subdivide even small tasks. My employer offers a Flex Spending program for medical costs. I would like to enroll in this program. It will save me money. However, the deadline for enrollment is fast approaching and I have not yet completed the task. I had "enroll flex spending!" on my to-do list every work day for weeks, and I just never got around to it.

I realized that perhaps that task - probably about an hour's worth of work overall - was still too big for me to fit into my already-full office hours in a single day. Plus, I do not enjoy dealing with forms, so I had a built-in affinity for pushing the task off day after day. So, to combat this tendency, I broke it into component parts even though it is not a large project. I assigned each part to one day. Here are the new to-do list items I created:

  • Read emails about flex spending; plan tasks. (Done!) 
  • Call flex spending company; confirm reimbursement eligibility for specific costs. (Done!)
  • Download, print, fill out flex spending enrollment forms. (Next!) 
  • Submit flex spending forms. (And then it will be over.) 

Each of these tasks is discrete enough and small enough that it won't be a burden to fit into my workday, and while the project is spread out over more time, it will be completed by the deadline, and won't keep getting moved to the next day over and over again.

Several weeks ago when I was discussing my two-column to-do list with a Very Organized Friend, she asked if I rewrote items on my list. I was doing that with "apply flex spending!" It had become something to move from one day's list to another, rather than something to do. When that happens, it's time to divide the task.