Thursday, June 27, 2013

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Book of Hours preparation

I started working on my book of hours project this week! I decided on my materials and made a rulesheet to guide my lines.

Mine will not be this pretty, but I have hopes that this project will improve my handwriting.

As I work, I'll be following the content of this hypertext book of hours, section by section. I guess I will post some pictures as I complete pages? Maybe I'll try to set up an IFTTT recipe to do it automatically? Any suggestions for easily sharing photos?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

PSA: Book clubbish activities in the near future

Book Discussions I plan to attend this summer! I realize this looks like a high school summer reading list; that's just how I roll. If you are interested in reading any of these/coming along to any of the chats, please let me know - here, on facebook, on twitter, or by semaphore preferred. 

Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser
Monday, June 24: 4:30 p.m.The St. Agnes Book Discussion Group at St. Agnes Library

The Book Thief
Wednesday, June 26: Online discussion of The Book Thief

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Wednesday, July 3: 3:30 - 4:30 p.m. The Riverside Book Discussion Group will meet at the Riverside branch of of the NYPL

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Thursday, July 18, 2-3:30 Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Margaret Liebman Berger Forum (online registration required:

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
Thursday, August 15, 2-3:30 Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Margaret Liebman Berger Forum (online registration required:

Monday, May 27, 2013

The blog is dead; long live the blog!

Welcome to the final post of this blogging project! Over the past year I have blogged here weekly about lists and organizational systems; over the next year I'll be blogging here about a different project.

Out with the old: my most popular post by far was (unsurprisingly, perhaps) the one about using two-column to-do lists, and the first runner up was (surprisingly, perhaps) the one about cleaning house.

And now in with the new: A couple weeks ago I asked for feedback about what my weekly project should be for the next year.

My ideas were to take the "no new clothes" challenge, to try a new craft or recipe every week, to start a "classics" book club or to create a Book of Hours.

On Facebook, in person, and in blog comments the answer was definitely that I should create a Book of Hours. So, okay! Here I go!

But, because I'm me, I still kind of want to do all of these things. Since then, I have found two book clubs - one in person and one virtual - that read classics in a nigh-monthly, low-stress way. So I'll join those. I reserve the right to blog about them if I so desire.
I will join these two book clubs. 
I also have a backlog of craft and science projects I'd like to try and recipes that look as though they might be delicious, so I will also do those intermittently, and I reserve the right to blog about them, too. As one commenter pointed out, I already try new crafts and recipes regularly, so to make this a year long project would sort of be cheating.

This blog space might get a bit juggly for the next year. I will work on the Book of Hours project at least once a week until it is done or until the year is over, and update weekly with pictures of, and comments about, that. I might also keep posting about organizational systems, recipes, craft and science projects, and maybe mending and thrifting, sporadically. Only time will tell!

In any event, you can expect the first post about my Book of Hours project as the next post on this blog.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Too many buts.

I've been noticing people's buts a lot. I'm not sure whether misused buts are on the rise, or whether I am just noticing them more recently. I started paying attention to buts when I realized I was misreading sentences from bloggers and my students, who often use the word "but" when they mean the word "and."

Then I started noticing the issue all over the place. For instance, in this adorable article about twin valedictorians, an English professor is quoted as saying, “They are the hardest-working students I have met. They are incredibly intelligent but they couple that with a great work ethic. Every assignment they turned in I knew was their best work” (emphasis mine). Now, I know the professor probably meant, "They are incredibly intelligent, yes, but what really allows them to excel is not only their intelligence but also their great work ethic." As the sentence stands, however, it looks like their intelligence is countered by the work ethic. Wouldn't it work at least as well to say "They are incredibly intelligent and they couple that with a great work ethic" instead?

So far, I bet this just sounds like a linguistic pet peeve. But* I think the idea of choosing between and and but actually has further implications.

  • Think about the improv game "yes, and" that teaches improv actors to accept and participate rather than control a scene.
  • Or think about the Adulting postStep 289: When saying something difficult to someone you love, use ‘and’ instead of ‘but’ in which the blogger points out the inherent differences between saying "I love you but you need to respect my boundaries" and "I love you and you need to respect my boundaries."
  • Or think about when the deli Lansky's was vandalized and the Post misquoted one of the owners. As discussed on the blog My Upper West, the Post wrote that he had said “I’m an Italian-American from Brooklyn, but if I was Jewish, I’d be deeply offended,” while the video recording of his statement makes it clear that he actually said “I’m Italian-American from Brooklyn and I was greatly offended by it.”

In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, think about your buts. I'm thinking about mine.

*That one was on purpose. The word "and" would not work in its stead.

Nota Bene: One more week to weigh in on what my next project will be! 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Vacation planning

Honestly, my brain is basically mush right now. I am in a fog of grading, and a fog of mortgage paperwork, as both my semester and my home purchase are slated to conclude this week. I'm in two fogs. 

But! Nigh unto all of the brain cells I have left are currently being devoted to EXCITEMENT because I  will be going to Japan on vacation in a few weeks. 

Some brochures Chris picked up at a festival in Central Park.
Here are some of the things I am doing to prepare for the trip: 
  • reading contemporary Japanese books. Three of my favorites so far have been Kitchen, by Banana Yoshimoto, 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, and Kibo ("Brimming with Hope"): Recipes and Stories from Japan's Tohoku by Elizabeth Andoh: a cookbook of homey Japanese cooking with a lot of cultural information thrown in.
  • looking at beautiful pictures of old Japan.
  • reading about other people's packing strategies for long-ish trips.
  • practicing some basic phrases by listening to recorded language lessons. I've been using the Pimsleur lessons and they seem pretty good for learning some stock phrases such as, "Excuse me, do you understand English?" and "Where is Hibiya Avenue?" and "I am not feeling well." I also now know three different ways to say thank you, and in which context to say each. I have no delusions of actual conversational ability, though. I hope merely to convey well-intentioned politeness.

    The Pimsleur guide is weird, however, in that it consistently positions me as an American man who is addressing and sometimes answering for a Japanese woman. I have just learned how to invite the Japanese woman back to my place for a drink. Literally. Thanks, Pimsleur, for confirming that I am not your target audience.
  • doing all of the practical things (buying a Japan Rail Pass, making hotel reservations, getting copies of our passports laminated [thanks, Stella!], setting up a roaming data plan, reading guidebooks from the library, writing down where the U.S. Embassy is, etc.)
  • shopping for a smallish, flattish, leather crossbody bag that zips all the way across the top.
  • asking knowledgeable friends for advice. This is ongoing. In fact, do YOU, dear reader, have any advice for preparing for this trip? Or bag-buying advice? 
Nota Bene: You are still welcome to weigh in on next year's project!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

On the Difference Between Embarrassment and Shame

The other day, worried I was running late, I hurried to class and was disconcerted to find none of my students there. Instead, the instructor who teaches in that room before I do was still wrapping up class. I realized that even though I've been teaching on this schedule for two years now, I had AMAZINGLY forgotten what time my class began and hurried to arrive at the room fifteen minutes early. Whoops. I was embarrassed and promptly told everyone I encountered about how I was absentminded, foolish, etc.

I told everyone about this because I was embarrassed. However, if I had been fifteen minutes late to class because I forgot when it began, I'd probably be ashamed instead of embarrassed. And I certainly wouldn't have jokingly told all my colleagues about it. When I do things I am ashamed of, I don't want anyone to know about them at all. I mean, I don't even want to know about them myself. Embarrassment is funny and public; shame is heavy and private.

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines shame primarily as "a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or improprietyand defines embarrassment primarily as "something that embarrasses <the scandal was a major embarrassment>." Hey, thanks, Merriam Webster! That was a big help. They define the word embarrass as "a: to place in doubt, perplexity, or difficulties b: to involve in financial difficulties c: to cause to experience a state of self-conscious distress<bawdy stories embarrassed him>" 

So, my discussion of embarrassment here isn't even the primary function of the word embarrass. And frankly, I don't think "a state of self-conscious distress" covers it. There wouldn't be an entire field of British comedy based on embarrassment if that was all there was to it. 

I'm not sure the definition for shame really covers what shame means, either. In her afterword to The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison asserts that for rapists, rape has "or once had" a "glamour of shame."* It was that phrase that made me think about this difference. I have never felt glamourous when I have been ashamed of myself; that might be nice. Glamour can be comforting, after all.

I guess I am still figuring out the nuanced differences in how I think about these emotional states. Embarrassing things are funny. Shameful things are not. Perhaps embarrassment is caused when I make mistakes that don't hurt anything; shame is caused when I make mistakes that do.

  • I am interested in how others think of these terms - do you use them interchangeably? Differently, but not how I do? 

Nota Bene: You are still welcome to weigh in on next year's project!

*Citation TK - my book is at school and I am at home.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Into the Great Unknown; a.k.a. Blogging Next Year

Ladies and Gentlemen, I would appreciate your input.

This is my 48th blog post, which means that I am nearing the end of this year-long list-blogging experiment. I like having a Weekly Thing, though! I'd like to KEEP having a Weekly Thing next year.*

SO, folks, what should it be? These are my current contenders:

  • Take the "no new clothes" pledge for a year. I'd still buy used, and maybe handmade, but mostly I'd be swapping, mending, and making do. I would document alterations, acquisitions, and maybe outfits weekly.
  • Make a thing a week. Sometimes it would be a craft project, maybe sometimes a science experiment, maybe sometimes a writing exercise, maybe sometimes try a cooking technique I've never tried before; document what gets made.
  • Straight up, try at least one recipe I've never tried before once a week. 
  • Handwrite and illustrate a Book of Hours. Create a couple pages a week.  This is something I've been thinking of doing since Grad School studying Medieval manuscripts
  • Begin a personal book club - Commit to reading one classic I don't already know know each month; blog about my thoughts weekly. If anyone in the area wants to join in, we drink beer and eat cookies once a month and talk about the book when we finish it. 
Please leave your vote (or write in a different suggestion) in the comments! 

Clothes? Crafts? Foods? Something Bookish? 

* See this post on why my year ends and starts in the summer rather than on January 1.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

One Lady's Memorabilia is Another Lady's Ephemera

I see a lot of plays.* I am also kind of a packrat. I love paper ephemera. Therefore, it is my default to save all my Playbills/programs for every play I see and put them in a box for Future Reminiscences. I do, in fact, take them out and page through them fondly years later and reminisce, too! I have decided, however, that it is time to acknowledge that not EVERY play I see is worth memorializing in this manner.

So I have developed a method to determine which programs I keep. In a given calendar year, I keep all programs from shows I see in that year. When I get home from a show, I stick my ticket in the program and stash it in a Designated Spot.* Then, the next January, or whenever I see the first show of the next year, I pull out ALL of that year's programs and make the cut. What gets kept gets stored; what gets recycled gets recycled.
These are the shows I saw in 2012. Well, most of them. This is before I made the cut, but after I had misplaced some programs. 

I am now in my second year of using this method and it is working for me for a few reasons. First of all, it is better than storing everything immediately because it creates some built-in reminiscing time about when I saw the shows to reinforce the memories I want to reinforce. And of course it eventually requires less storage space than would storing them all. Besides that, it is also better than making the cut show by show immediately after I see each one because that decision might be one I'd regret later. Seeing all the programs together helps me decide in an informed manner which of the shows counted as the year's best theatrical experiences.

*Many are free; many are heavily, heavily discounted using various memberships.
**It's next to the cookbooks.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Chard Chip Victory!

As we all know, kale chips are The Best. I had tried making chard chips in a similar way in the past, but to no avail. I kept ending up with tough, soggy leaves and disappointment. A couple of days ago, however, I finally achieved Chard Chip Victory! I MIGHT like them more than kale chips.

crisp and delicious.
Chard Chips: 

Wash and dry chard leaves. Remove tough center veiny things.

Chop into pieces the size of the palm of my hand. (Or fine, your own hand.) They'll cook down in size.

Roll in towels to press out all moisture.

Preheat oven to 300 F. Most chard chip recipes say 275; that's probably fine if your oven is reliable.

Dump dry chopped leaves into a bowl; toss with olive oil to coat very lightly and sprinkle spices to taste. I used Penzey's chili powder, cumin, and salt and pepper.

Lay out leaves on a foil-lined cookie sheet in a single layer, not overlapping at all.

Bake for about 25 minutes, until they turn crisp and translucent.

UNLIKE kale chips, I found it was better to slightly undercook rather than slightly overcook.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Remember a while ago when I wrote about doing the hundred push-ups program? And I said I'd be doing the same thing with slightly more advanced push-ups and also sit-ups? It turns out that was a bad idea.

I watched youtube videos about good form for sit-ups, and really didn't feel I was doing anything very strenuous. Yet, I have managed to injure myself. I sprained the ligament that goes down my spine on the right side (I had not realized this was possible), and now the right half of my upper body is in spasm. The left side doesn't feel so great either.

So now I am seeing a chiropractor three times a week until it stops hurting so much. He has given me stretches to do a couple times a day, and forbidden me to do any more push-ups or sit-ups until he says it is okay to start again. Alas.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

30 minute dinner: fresh mozzarella, polenta, and eggs a la Jesse over roast asparagus

The pan on its way into the oven has enough polenta and asparagus for three dinners. Yay, leftovers!  
This isn't a real cooking blog. If it were, I would probably have titled this post "15 minute dinner" or "10 minute dinner," because the meal takes only 10-15 minutes of prep time. However,  I am more concerned with the time it takes to go from thinking "I'd like to be eating" to the time when I actually am, in fact, eating. This menu takes me 28 minutes from walking into the kitchen and turning on the oven to sitting down with a plated meal.

prepared polenta in log form
fresh mozzarella
fresh tomatoes
fresh eggs
olive oil
canola oil or butter
spices - I used salt and black pepper on the asparagus and freeze-dried shallots and lemon pepper on the eggs.

Preheat the oven to 425.

Slice polenta into 1/2 inch thick rounds. Brush olive oil on the bottom. Top with a thin-mint sized chunk of mozz and some sliced tomatoes.

Wash asparagus and break at natural breaking point. Gently shake dry. Drizzle with olive oil and add salt and pepper (or other desired herbs and spices) to taste.

If oven is not hot yet, wash things while you wait. If you need to keep killing time, arrange a small bowl of pickled mushrooms to accompany your dinner.

Put asparagus and polenta rounds into oven and set timer for 10 min.

Start Eggs a la Jesse: Heat canola oil or butter (and onions or garlic, if desired) in frying pan over medium heat. When hot, break in eggs. Sprinkle with spices of your choice. Cover with well-fitting lid and turn down heat to medium low.

As soon as the whites are done, turn off the heat and let the eggs sit until the yolks have reached desired consistency.

Check oven after 10 minutes. With my oven, I turn the pan around and cook for another 5 minutes to heat evenly.

Eat dinner.

Variations on a theme: 

  • Want to take this to work to eat for lunch? Hard boil the eggs instead and everything will be delicious at room temperature. 
  • Made enough for leftover polenta and asparagus and want to vary your protein intake? Reheat in the toaster oven with a Boca or Morningstar patty from the freezer. Or toss white beans in a quick vinaigrette with some dried basil and oregano the night before and eat cold.
  • No asparagus? Try zucchini medallions, thinly-sliced wedges of cabbage or vertically-halved broccoli or cauliflower florets instead.
  • No fresh mozzarella or polenta? Try cheddar over rye bread or parmesan over sweet potato rounds. You might want to par-cook the sweet potato rounds in the microwave a bit first, depending on thickness. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Put it away.

Being tidy involves putting things away. And I have found that putting things away is actually a two-step process:

Step one: Determine a good place to store your thing.

Step two: Whenever you are done using the thing, put the thing in that place.

Corollary to step one: When you purchase or otherwise obtain a thing, think about where it will be kept before you bring it home.

Corollaries to step two: (1) Inform your family and roommates of where that place is. Otherwise, the people you live with will believe you are just hiding the thing. They will not be pleased. (2) If you find that there's a better place to keep the thing, start keeping it there.*

These are the steps that work for me! Do you have storage strategies that work for you?

* We keep the spare tabletop behind the bedroom door. I know someone else who keeps theirs under the bed. Wherever works, dude. Wherever works.

Monday, March 18, 2013

More on Money

Last month, I blogged about a system for tracking expenses and my friends Sasha and Emily* mentioned some great ideas in the comments. I decided that I would list here some of the shifts I've made to be more mindful of my spending. I am also still really interested in any of your tips and tricks!

Changes in Mindset: 

  • Consider cooking and mending to be hobbies. They are free and rewarding AND save money. 
  • Avoid rushed decisions. "Let me check and get back to you!" is a totally acceptable response when invited to plans that may or may not fit into my budget. 
  • Walking instead of taking the subway is good for my wallet, my health, and my love of the city. 
  • Inviting friends over for an activity instead of meeting to eat a meal in a restaurant is ACTUALLY AWESOME.  For instance, I had my friends Jesse and Sarah over and we MADE CHEESE AND THEN ATE IT. 
Pictures by Sarah Brown who now seems as addicted to this collage -making app as I am. 

Changes in Habit: 
  • When I'm reading online, I leave a tab open to the New York Public Library page and just add things to my holds list as they appeal to me. Novels, comics, movies, music - all available for free. 
  • I still do much of my shopping online, but I am building the habit of checking sites like for online coupons and discount codes before making any purchases. 
  • I am also trying to plan ahead for purchases more successfully. For instance, after this week I'll know what books I will teach in the fall semester. I should order desk copies in April to avoid paying for the books at the last minute because I forget to order desk copies in time.
  • Relatedly, I really need to keep better track of my travel budget at work because once that is exhausted I don't get reimbursed for conference expenses. Perhaps I'll devote a page in my long-term planning notebook to this. 
* You can tell the difference between that Emily and me because that Emily is tall and blonde and has a law degree and has run a 5k. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Reading list

Here are a few of the blog posts I've really enjoyed reading recently - and I'm always on the lookout for more reading recommendations, too:

  • Sasha of A Sasha Party wrote a post about a party I threw! If you would like to read a very complimentary account of this one time I had a lot of fun, here is a place where you can do that. 
  • Ali of Tag Sale Style wrote a post about her company's system for early arrivals to sales. It is far from any system I might need in my daily life and therefore fascinating. 
  • Get Rich Slowly has a post about developing criteria for when to spend money on things that are not strictly necessary. I'm not sure I'll use this system, but I find it interesting. 
  • A reader submitted a LOVELY to-do list to UnF*** Your Habitat recently. It's inspirational. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Filing for the classes I teach - Work in progress.

Ladies and gentlemen, the system I am about to discuss is TOTALLY a work in progress. I welcome thoughts and suggestions.

I used to make three files for each class every semester (I'll use 101 as an example) - 101 Spring 2012 extras and originals, 101 Spring 2012 student work and 101 Spring 2012 notes.

This semester I have changed my system. NOW I keep one folder per course that is semester-specific: 101 Spring 2012 student work and extra copies of handouts; and one folder per course that is a perennial: 101- notes, teaching copies and originals of handouts. That way I can store the student work and recycle the extra copies easily at the end of each semester while keeping easy access to the handouts and teaching copies and notes I reuse semester after semester.

BUT IS THIS THE BEST WAY? I welcome your thoughts.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

On Triage and Maintenance

I noticed recently that my main computer was very full. Sluggishly so, in fact. And when I ran J Disk Report (free!) I was shocked, shocked! to realize that almost half my hard drive was taken up by my iPhoto library. I had over 28,000 photos. I am not sure if that will sound like a lot to anybody reading this, but gosh, it felt like a lot to me. I had transfered library after library, to computer after computer, sloppily. There were, like, eight copies, four of them corrupted, of the same photo of a kitten I'd downloaded from the internet in 2004. Ladies and gentlemen, I don't even KNOW that kitten.

I had over ten versions of this picture of a miniature horse from  my hometown.
The picture is from 2005, so I obviously hadn't even seen any of the Li'l Sebastian
episodes of Parks and Recreation yet. 

And according to my fumbling internet research, it is either expensive or unreliable or both to use a program to remove duplicates from iPhoto. It kind of has to be done by hand, apparently, especially since not all the photos I need to remove are copies - many of them are slightly different versions of photos I took. Some poorly lit, some blurry, some with bonus thumb, you know how it goes.

So here's what I'm doing. I have made it a temporary policy to spend twenty minutes a day reviewing, labeling (and then trashing part of) my iPhoto library.

  • I open up iPhoto. I pick up where I left off the day before. I look at EVERY PHOTO in an event and trash the blurries and duplicates and inexplicables.
  • I look through the entire trash folder to make sure I'm not making any mistakes. 
  • I empty the trash. 
  • I email myself where to pick up the next day. 
This is a policy, not a rule. If I skip a day, I still know where to pick up the next day, and because I empty the trash every time, I am gradually increasing the space available on my computer. I usually end up deleting 200-600 pictures in a 20 minute session. 

Pretty soon, I'll catch up with myself. Then I'll need to develop some system to deal with all the iPhone pictures I sync weekly. That will be maintenance, but for right now I'm just doing triage. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

On one giant leap for Emily, a small step for Emilykind.

I have achieved a thing! It is not a major achievement in the grand scheme of things, but for me it was difficult and I worked a long time at it and finally did it, so that means I am proud of it even if it is minor.

I have very little upper body strength. Last semester I would have said VIRTUALLY NO upper body strength, but now I have graduated to "very little."

Many of you have probably heard of the 100 Push-Ups six-week plan, but that was laughably out of my reach. So I modified the program to do 100 wall push ups. It was not easy for me. It took far longer than six weeks for a number of reasons. I had to redo week five because I failed the strength test after it.  And, just as an aside, even if everything goes as planned, the program takes longer than six weeks because after certain weeks you need to wait a couple days, perform a strength test and then wait another couple of days before starting on the next week.

BUT, when I started the program I could do nine wall push-ups and NOW I CAN DO ONE HUNDRED. That is, like, a lot more! So I feel accomplished, even if wall push-ups are the wussiest of push-ups.

One nice thing about this program is that you are constantly keeping track of how far you've come. Now I am starting the program over, doing both assisted sit-ups and desk push-ups, and maybe after I finish this "six-week" (ha!) program I will graduate to The Real Thing and be able to do ANY sit-ups and/or ANY push-ups for realsies.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

On Budgeting, Terminology, and Advice

Back in November I wrote about beginning to budget for the first time in my adult life. I was vaguely apprehensive that I was doing it wrong, and I still welcome hearing about others' systems! In January I revised my amounts for the new calendar year, but I think my system is working for me. Basically, I add up my "necessary" expenditures and keep track of how much of the leftovers I spend in a given month.

I have recently started reading And Then We Saved, and the writer there (Anna) refers to my system as a "spending diet" rather than a budget. By Anna's criteria, the only part of my system that would count as "budgeting" is the amount of money I set aside for groceries/household expenditures, since that's a category where I actively limit myself to a predetermined amount each week.

Anna dislikes the word "budget," so she invented a neologism to describe her system. I, personally, have terrible associations with the concept of dieting. I would be happy to discuss nutritional goals, food preferences, portion size, or a billion other things about eating delicious healthy things, but I'd rather not hear about your diet. It would NEVER occur to me to use that term to REDUCE anxiety when talking about money.

Even though we use different terms, it was exciting to see someone talking about a system I use because usually, online discussions about saving money are not applicable to my actual lifestyle. I mean, the money I am advised to save is generally already money I do not spend. In a recent challenge on Get Rich Slowly*, for instance, the blogger Ellen Cannon makes the following suggestions:

  • "Scale back on the cable services you currently buy:" BUT I don't have cable. 
  • Consider "carpooling:" BUT I don't own a car. 
  • "Bring your lunch to work every day:" BUT I do that already. 
  • "Make a hearty soup or stew and freeze it in portions:" BUT I do that already, too. This week it is white bean and chard stew with tomatoes and apple cider vinegar and believe me, it is delicious. I might make some crusty bread to go with it. But that's a digression. 
To save money, I am also routinely advised to get rid of my landline (I don't have one), cancel magazine subscriptions (I have only one and it was a gift), buy meat in bulk when it's on sale and then freeze it (I'm a vegetarian), do things to the outside of my house to make it weatherproof (I live in a seventh floor apartment), and the list goes on. 

One of the things that makes And Then We Saved particularly useful is that it is a technique rather than a list of specific expenditures. AND YET, if you have specific ways you've reduced your own spending, I would love to hear about those, too! 

*I really like Get Rich Slowly and these are good suggestions. But not useful to me. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Syncing my devices, systems and life

Way back in the early mists of time, by which I mean September of 2012, I mentioned that I sync up all my lists and stuff once a week: 
  • Friday Sync! A new checklist for a variety of weekly tasks organized into one session - syncing devices and calendars, preparing the week's to-do lists, meal planning, watering the plants, etc.

I have a checklist displayed vertically at my desk that reminds me every Friday (the day I work from home) I should do the following: 
  1. Order my groceries for the week and plan what I will cook when. 
  2. Use my Google calendar to make my daily To Do lists for the week.
  3. Transfer notes I've taken on my EPHEMERA sheet to wherever they should really go - this might involve sending emails, making calendar items, reserving library books, or placing To Do list items.
  4. Use my camera phone to take pictures of the attendance sheets and grade sheets for each of my classes. Yes, I still keep track of attendance and grades on paper. 
  5. Sync my phone to my computer. 
  6. Review my email inbox and then sync my Google Calendar and my Gmail account to my iCal and Mail programs on my computer. 
  7. Plug in the external drive I use for computer back ups and run Time Machine. 
  8. Water my plants. I only have plants that thrive on infrequent watering.
This is a numbered list because I do these things in this order on purpose. Syncing my phone AFTER taking a picture of each attendance sheet means that I have that information stored digitally in more than one place, for instance. 

Since this is a standard part of my work week now, I never have to worry, OH GOD WHEN DID I LAST CREATE A BACK UP OF MY COMPUTER? I know it was Friday. I never have to think DO I HAVE ANY RECORD OF THIS ATTENDANCE SHEET THAT I SEEM TO HAVE MISPLACED? I know I do, as of Friday. And I usually find the attendance sheet under the syllabus anyway, but it is still nice to make that momentary panic as brief as possible. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Developing Longterm Policies Instead of Making Annual Resolutions

January is almost over and it's time to check in and see how well you are doing with your New Year's resolutions! HAHAHA, no, I am totally kidding. It's not time for that at all. Please don't do that. In fact, I don't really make New Year's resolutions any more. As I've blogged about before, turning over the calendar year doesn't mean as much to me as my semester schedule does. That's why I keep lists of major and minor things I want to accomplish each semester rather than things I want to do "this year."

I also take advice from fortune cookies. And a band-aid.
Yes, that  fortune on the bottom left really does say "Do onto others as you wish others to do onto you."
Excellent advice, I find. 
I do, however, take the occasion of the New Year to revisit my POLICIES list, which contains aspirational items such as I do not waste food, and I take at least one day off from work each week. Ladies and gentlemen, I am not always able to abide by these policies, but I do my best. And at least annually, I reassess. For instance, due to a changing teaching schedule, I might decide I am done with work by five each evening should more realistically be I am done with work by six each evening.

In The Great Gatsby Jay Gatsby had his list of RESOLVES back when he was still James Gatz. I do not want to be like Gatsby. Things did not turn out well for him. So I thought pretty seriously about my phrasing and decided that RULES, RESOLVES, ALWAYS, and any number of similar list headings would make me feel too discouraged whenever I slipped up. I decided on POLICIES precisely because one can negotiate them. I can think of myself as a person who is done with work by six each evening even though I might need to work until eight at particularly busy times during the semester.

This might get to a fundamental personality issue. Just as some people on a diet do better with food restrictions - "I'm not allowed to drink ANY soda" - while others do better with portion control - "No seconds for me, thanks" - so too will some people do better with absolutes in terms of behavior modification - systems such as Don't Break the Chain - while I, personally, prefer policies with wiggle room.

My POLICIES list has evolved recently, too. I have started adding things I already feel good about in addition to things I want to improve. It's nice to have a written reminder of what I feel I'm doing well and what I want to keep doing well. It reinforces that much of my energy is already directed in the way I want it to go.

Next up, I will work on making my POLICIES list beautiful and placing it somewhere visible. I find these examples inspirational.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

My Crackpot Theories about the Cold

Earlier this month, I left New York for a week and visited my parents in California. It was 27 degrees while I was there, and in the mid 40s in NYC. At the time, I felt cheated! How dare it be colder in California than in New York? Clearly, the universe was being unfair to me in a very specific, temperature-based way!

Well, now I'm back in New York. My semester started this week, and we've been having truly mortifyingly cold weather for it, with highs in the low 20s and lows in the mid teens. I am very thankful  for the functional heat in my building, and on the commuter trains. Waking up to 27 degrees now seems like a fond hope rather than a cheat.

And I think it's possible my mind is slightly addled* from the cold? I have certainly been developing a lot** of THEORIES about it.

  • Crackpot theory the first: The "half your age plus seven" rule for dating age also applies to temperatures to be tolerated at different ages. The rule states that the cut-off for dating someone younger than oneself (and not being creepy about it) is half one's age plus seven. I propose that as a general rule, half one's age plus seven is also the minimum temperature one will be willing to tolerate on a regular basis.

    My boyfriend points out that this would certainly explain why so many elderly people move to Florida, but that babies are not particularly well suited to surviving extreme cold. To which I say, babies should not be dating. Basically, once one version of the rule is in effect, I think they both are.
  • Crackpot theory the second: Wearing horizontal stripes feels warmer than wearing vertical stripes. Trust me. Try it. 

* Sorry, students. 
** two. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Haircut song

I'm growing out my hair. It's about jaw-length now, and surprisingly, I need to get it cut just as often as I did when it was a pixie cut. This means that I have returned to my (apparently lifelong) goal of getting haircuts that make me look slightly more like Harriet Vane from the Peter Wimsey mysteries by Dorothy Sayers. 

Growing out my hair also means that I need to use a shower cap again.
My mom got me this jaunty number in black and pink for Christmas. Note the rosette. 
Remember a while ago when I mentioned that I write doggerel? Well, for the past three and a half years, I have combatted Haircut Nervousness by singing this song. It is meant to be yelled. I envision it as a screamier version of "Everybody Wants Some"  -  the Better Off Dead version, naturally. 

I’m going to be fancy. 
I’m gonna look so good. 
First I’ll get a shampoo. 
I’ll be smelling so good. 
It will swish around my ears.
It’ll feel so good.
The back of my neck will be so prickly: 
So Prickly! 
So Prickly!
The little brush thing never helps.
It’ll be okay.
It’s a small price to pay...
For a Haircut! 
I’m going to be fancy. 
I’m gonna look so good.

ASIDE: Ladies and Gentlemen, I have had several reports of Blogger eating comments. I am not in favor of this. I am against it. I will look into it and possibly switch to Facebook comments. Of course if you are reading this on Tumblr, you may disregard this aside.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Cleaning house

One of the reasons I like UnF*** Your Habitat so much is that the UFYH lady often provides step-by-step instructions on how to clean things. As someone who only recently realized that one should rinse the kitchen counters with water after applying cleaning solution, step-by-step instructions are nice. Plus, they allow me to budget my cleaning time more effectively.

My boyfriend and I share cleaning duties for the apartment. When it's my turn to do the kitchen, bathroom and laundry, I know exactly how long it will take (2.5 hours) because I've developed a step-by-step method. This is that method:

1. Gather laundry; sprinkle Comet in wet bathtub.
2. Start laundry in the basement of my building. This means I can do several loads at once.
3. Kitchen:

  • clean dining table. 
  • remove all items from kitchen counters and stovetop. Clean items and place on dining table. 
  • clean counters, stovetop, sink, and fronts of appliances and cabinets. 
  • move all items back to their places. 
  • run dishwasher if necessary. 
4. Empty trash bins from all rooms of apartment; take trash down on the way to get laundry. 
5. Transfer laundry to driers; take up line-dry items. 
6. Hang up line-dry items. 
7. Finish up any lingering kitchen tasks. 
8. Bathroom: 
  • remove all items from flat surfaces on bath, counters, etc. Clean items and place on dining table. 
  • clean flat surfaces.
  • clean vertical surfaces, including shower curtain, tile and walls.
  • scrub tub; rinse. 
  • move all items back to their places.
  • do all the mirrors in the apartment. 
9. Get laundry from basement; fold, put away and make bed with fresh sheets. 

This might look like a marathon, but it has built-in breaks in the elevator rides, and enough variation in tasks that it is at least an over-all workout and not, like, 2.5 straight hours of scrubbing or something.

Note the first: the blog One Good Thing recently posted a similar method for daily bathroom cleaning.
Note the second: I am sure we all agree that it would be inappropriate to post "before" pictures of a dirty bathroom. That will not occur.


Remember when I posted about hosting swaps and exchanges? My friend Holly has just posted about the same thing over at her blog Life and How to Live It! I think her post is a nice companion piece to mine since my methods are based on having a small apartment and hers are based on having a big house.

Plus, it's worth a read for the vicarious thrill of someone BRINGING FLUEVOGS IN HER SIZE TO HER SWAP. I have given away Fluevogs at a swap, but never been on the receiving end. If this ever happens to me it will mean I have won at life.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Know how to accept party help when it is offered

Happy New Year! I spent the night with an 80s Prom theme, wearing a giant royal blue dress and dancing with my date, Devo. It was all fun and games until, in True Prom Style, another woman arrived wearing the same dress as me. We obviously had to have a screaming hair-pulling fight, especially since it was clear she had accessorized better than I had.
Heidi's belts are bodacious; Emily has no belts at all.
Way before any of that royal blue drama, however, yesterday afternoon (LAST YEAR) as the party was being set up, I marveled at my hosts' party prep. They have a three-story house and that means that party prep for them is very different than it is for me in my small one-bedroom apartment. For instance, their kitchen exists on a different floor from where the party food would be set up. They've been throwing these parties for years now, though, and they have the party prep down to a science. A couple things really stood out to me:

  • One of the hosts, the excellent Theo Black, assembled first aid kits before the party started. This is a great idea. 
  • The other host, the equally excellent Holly Black, made pairs of post-it notes. One would say I am the Cheese Board; one would say I am where the Cheese Board goes. This meant that all the serving platters could be taken to the food tables, arranged in a logical manner, and then their spots on the table marked. After that, anybody could take the platters back up to the kitchen, fill them or refill them, and then replace them where they should go. 
Because Holly had those table spots and platters labeled, it meant that when people asked how they could help, she could tell them. My home is much smaller so that's not a strategy I need to employ, but it is certainly an effective one. Similarly though, in 2012 I realized how to say yes when people at parties ask if they can help. Here are two things I routinely tell people when they ask how they can help at parties: 
  • I show people how to buzz guests into my apartment building, and then I enlist their help in doing so. I can't spend the whole party standing by the front door. 
  • In the middle of the party, if people ask how they can help, I ask them to do a tour of a specific room and pull any empty beverage containers - recycle recyclables, put glasses/mugs right in the sink. 
Both these requests are finite, easy, and a huge help to the hosts. 

NOTE: My friend Sasha has an entire blog about party planning! It's called A Sasha Party