Thursday, January 16, 2014

Thursday's my slow day...

Heh... I realized this morning that Thursday is my 'slow day'... yanno, the day that I cycle to work, work for a few hours, cycle home and then go do volunteer youth work in the evening?  Yah, my slow day!  Nah, this week wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.

Victoria's been leaping.  She's started counting and her word count is increasing.  She's also demonstrating and expressing more empathy.  But the trade off has been that she's been hard to get to sleep.  Its been taking as much as two hours in the evening to wind her down enough to help her find sleep.  She also seemed to be coming down with a chest infection, but its cleared up as suddenly as it appeared.  Its a good thing, I was dreading caring for a sick baby yesterday.  But yesterday actually ended up being pretty productive what with getting a good chunk of my to-do list knocked out.

I'll be meeting with a couple of folks from the Youth Zone about a paid opportunity.  I'm pretty chuffed that they like me enough to actually pay me for my time, but I also need to be sure its within the scope of what I have time to do.  I mean, I didn't go volunteer there to get a job... I went to volunteer to gain experience with working with kids of that age group so that I'm ready for teaching them once I've started and I'm out of school.  I also need references for school in that arena, which will help with placement.  So I want to be absolutely sure its within the scope of what I can make time to do so that I'm not setting myself up for failure, as in burn out or bad references, downstream.  But it'll be on Sundays and it'll be working with the juniors ... 8-12s... which I have a pretty easy time with.

Anyhow, my fifteen minutes to blog isn't up yet, but its getting light out so I gotta get my cycling gear on and get on with my day.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

So how's that blogging 15 min per day working out for ya?

Muahahaha!  Bwahaha!  What was I thinking?!!?!?!

Ah well, the bright side of New Years Resolutions is that they don't truly go away unless you throw in the towel and can always be improved upon.

I just got off of the busy part of my week: Saturday, Sunday, and Monday when just about everyone is home.  Victoria's been doing some serious developmental leaping which has been driving me insane because its interrupting her sleeping.  It's been taking as much as two hours to get her down to sleep, naps included.  Yesterday I was at my wit's end, but fortunately hubby was home and was able to give me time to do my bi-weekly meal planning and start on the grocery list.

Today, I'm enjoying some quiet, somewhat fearful of looking at my past overdue to-do list.  I know I gotta like oil the couch and stuff like that.  I need to find some good jams to help motivate me towards getting it all done.

Anyhow, quick food review.  I did some beef dishes to ring in the New Year since beef is expensive and not often on the menu consequently.  I found some true skirt cuts at Too Good Farm at a price that was too good to pass up for making beef fajitas.  I did this Marinated Flank Steak recipe, substituting limes for lemons.  It was a win, so its a keeper.

Then on Saturday, I meant to do this Lebanese Lentil Rice Pilaf, but I avoided it.  I've been trying to find good lentil recipes to start incorporating into our everyday living because its one of those foods that reportedly lowers cholesterol, which would help hubby a great deal.  However, a few weeks ago, I followed a lentil leek recipe that turned out to be a serious disaster.  It ended up being much harder to prepare than I anticipated and then it just tasted awful.  Hubby was trying to be a good sport and was eating it but the kids and I were totally turning our noses at it.  I can't remember the last time I threw food out like that.  So I was shy of trying this recipe.

However, I was wrong to avoid it.  This Lebanese Lentil Rice Pilaf was excellent!  I didn't do the caramelized onions, but the rest stood up on its own.  Victoria was scooping it up by the fistful like she couldn't get enough.  Arthur even tried some!  And its super easy to make, so it'll be coming back frequently to our table.

And finally as always on the quest for finding stupidly easy savory crock pot recipes, this Balsamic Beef didn't disappoint.  I only had a quarter cup of balsamic vinegar left, however, so I made up the difference in barbecue sauce.  But it still worked and came out super tender!  This was served last night with the lentils as one side and steamed broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots.  And tonight's left over Balsamic Beef will be pulled and mixed with barbecue sauce and served on bams with a side of oven roasted chips.

Anyhow, yesterday my morning was nearly completely ruined when hubby shared with me the story of Spozhmai.  It affected me on so many levels, thinking about what she said was her story... I mean, crimes against humanity committed upon this little girl and she being forced to wear a suicide vest.  I seriously hope she knows that she can stand on US or British Embassy grounds and ask for asylum rather than being returned to her family.

From that story also came a bit of a revelation.  Last Thursday when I went to go volunteer at the Wigan Youth Zone, my mentor (he's Muslim) asked me to come with him to the market to pick up some banners that the youth club had stored there.  Along the way, he saw a Muslim kid and his buddy that he had recognized from the youth club before, but hadn't seen in several months.  My mentor invited the kid and his friend to the youth zone for a chat and they said that they'd come, but I thought it was an empty promise.  Sure enough though, they both showed up and my mentor got them signed up for a program that's launching this next year-- it offers employ-ability skills to young adults and helps them get connected to careers through apprenticeships.

I mean, looking at these kids... I would have never guessed that they would have cared to show up, and certainly not sign up for this program.  But they did.  And rather than running idle with their lives, or worse, getting caught up in some of the area's gang activity, they've been pointed towards something constructive that can change their lives for the positive.  And I realized that as a volunteer youth worker, I might actually be taking part of being that front line against terrorism.  Kind of a spooky thought, really.  And also proof that I need to work on putting my biases aside.

I mean, sometimes I don't think much of my mentor because he's much more a youth worker than a business person, but then he does something completely amazing like recruiting some punk kid I would have overlooked.  And then, of course, I judged the kid without really giving him a chance... which was very wrong of me to do.  I have a lot to learn and relearn.

Youth work is really difficult a lot of times.  But then something life affirming and redeeming like that happens.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Things getting back to normal

Christmas and New Years holidays are done!  Now everyone gets back on their routines.  I've been looking forward to it as I'm a big fan of structure and routine that I can never seem to fully latch into since my kids are so random.

We purchased a new-to-us couch this past weekend.  It came with a matching 'Daddy Chair'.  The kids think its their new bouncy castle and have been pretty challenging.  I never thought I'd be grounding the kids from the couch.

Its a nice set destined for the formal living room of the new house.  Meanwhile, our old Ikea couch has been flat-packed once again and stored precariously in Arthur's bedroom.  That couch is destined for the kids' play room and so its a good thing its been taken all apart since it'll be going up two floors.

I was looking over progress for the new house over the past year yesterday, just to remind myself that there has been progress and hopefully over the up-coming weeks it'll accelerate.  Chris says that the breaking down stage is just about finished and that we'll begin the building back in stage soon.  That means I gotta get cracking again with vision stuff, nail down exactly what I want and how I want it, etc.

Feeling a bit uninspired for writing and feeling more the need to get doing.  Especially since my son's asking for cereal 9999999999999 times.  Now.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Evernote and whatever else comes up

First thing in the morning, coffee's perking.  I really want a cup of coffee.

So I've been trying to get things around the house a bit more organized.  And I've very recently broken one of my personal rules of the internet: never buying apps.  I had that rule mostly because with my exposure to the open source world, I always had it stuck in my head that there would always be an easy free work around.  Or that if I could better understand the technology, I could just build my own.  Also I never wanted to buy apps because... well... they're too easy to buy.  There's a lot of choice and sometimes even with demo versions, its easy to get excited about an app, buy it, and then find another app that had that additional bell or whistle that you were looking for.  So you gotta buy ANOTHER app.  And that's too easy.  You get nickel and dimed to death too since apps are relatively cheap.

The only exception I made to this rule in the past was buying Bubble School for Arthur.  But that's because Bubble School was so intuitive to use and he's really gotten a lot out of it.

But for myself, I persevered without much in the way of electronic organization except for free apps that came on my phone.  I'd love to be able to have the time to understand the technology better and build my own.  But I'm a mom and I need the end product yesterday.  I needed this organization app 6 months ago.  Please save me!

I was using a few apps on my Note 3 that came out of the box.  S Note / Action memo... slick.  Especially with the S Pen.  Scrapbook.  Awesome.  I've gotten addicted to being able to make written notes on my phone, clip it and store it in Scrapbook.  It was great for making up the kids' Christmas list this year and I liked it better than Pinterest.  Except that I couldn't share that easily and I couldn't make all of the information that snips linked to available offline... like for grocery shopping at Tesco's where the signal is poor and their public wi-fi blows goats.

I just got done with 'teaching' myself how to meal plan and grocery shop using only my phone.  I've been trying to 'teach' myself how to do with just the phone to be ready for school because if I don't have to lug a laptop or full sized tablet around and can do it all on my Note 3, all the better!

But I still needed something to help me remember to flip the mattresses.  Or research a utility rate before our contract was up.  Or remind me to rotate the house plants (or yanno, water them).  Since its end of year and everyone's on the resolutions kick and making offers on apps and doing their 'Best of 2013' lists, I went to see if I could find the right productivity app for me.  I checked out a few.  Tody-- which is iOS only.  I found a nice free android app for house routines... called something like clean sweep or something... but it kept crashing.  I was starting to get frustrated with looking and I thought, why not go back to basics and see what Google's done with Tasks lately.

Now for my task list of things to remember, I would be using Google Calendar already except that for house chores, I really can't assign a time.  And my 'all day' items are already jam packed with other information, like where each kid, my husband, and myself are each day.  I looked at Google Tasks again and was sorely disappointed that there hadn't been improvements on the web interface since I last looked at it.  Google Calendar is right there-- why can't these two marry?  So I started looking for apps that did that-- that married the two and found a couple.

GTasks, I found, had a super easy interface for creating task lists with reminders and had an easy to set up repetition scheme.  So I was able to design for myself my annual tasks, bi-annual, quarterly, monthly, bi-weekly, weekly, every 2-3 days and daily tasks.

And my writing time is up and I wasn't done writing.  But I promised only 15 minutes per.  Maybe I'll cheat later after the kids are off to nursery since its my 'day off' and write more if it strikes my fancy.  But more likely, I'll still be trying to get my head around Evernote, which is raved about but I'm still trying to understand how it'll be better than what I'm using already-- the 'Offline notebooks' for premium users (1 year came free with my O2 account) seems to be the only plus that I've found.  And the Evernote junkies say its real power is with using it by jumping in with two feet.  But I can't write on my clips with my S Pen.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year! Resolution 1: Start blogging again

Hiya!  So, I decided I start blogging again as part of the suite of New Years Resolutions for 2014.  This portion's supposed to be good for me in showing me the growth I've experienced over the year where blurbs on Facebook status just doesn't cut it.  15 minutes a day, no more, no less.  So the egg timer's going and I'm doing some free form thought stuff.

Oh yah, no photos for these either.  Just words.  That idea's inspired by an old friend who did the same with his journal.

At any rate... A's seated across from me watching Timmy Time on my old mobile.  C and V are crashed out in the living room.  At about 4 this morning, V was inconsolable, so C has been bringing her down to settle and sleep in the living room so that I can get some uninterrupted sleep (so very thoughtful!).

I'm trying out a new task management system where I've listed most of my house chores and tried to spread out the work.  We'll see how it goes.  It'll probably still require some tweaking.

I'm having a cup of coffee.

I'm feeling a bit on the spot.  Live free form thought journalling, folks  =)

I'm looking forward to taking on mountain biking.  I've been day dreaming about canal rides and rides through Haigh Hall and exploring some of the back paths for months now.

I'm looking forward to doing stuff with the kids at the Wigan Youth Zone.  I want to grow my relationships there with the other volunteers and staff and show the kids that there are adults who care and don't think they're totally slackers so long as they find it in them to be respectful and open minded.  And that those adults would go out of their way to help them.  I want those kids to overcome the obstacles and challenges that are keeping them from experiencing a full, happier life.  I want to introduce new experiences to them, lend them courage and confidence, help guide them to doing what's right for themselves and our community.

I'm looking forward to making everything line up to going back to school.  I came across some road blocks there, but not anything a little time won't help.  In the meantime, I do need to make myself buckle down and start getting into the habit of studying.

I'm looking forward to having A. home more often and starting to accelerate his learning through play.  I'm so impressed with what he does with math.  I want to encourage him to pursue language a bit more.  And I want to have the opportunity to play games with him and continue to bond with him since we're still doing a little bit of catch up in that arena, but doing very well.

I'm looking forward to watching V. grow into her own person.  She's sort of at an annoying phase, truth be told, where she's so excited about life and the things around her and she wants me to be her constant companion for all of it.  Perhaps I should re-examine it all through new eyes or something, once I get past this feeling of being smothered by her at times.  She doesn't mean it like that.

I'm looking forward to getting into the new house, being able to add my personal touches to it and really leaving my mark and making it our own.  I'm looking forward to having some fantastic gatherings there as well and being a great hostess and sharing love and laughter with friends.  I'm looking forward to sharing all of that with my husband as well.

I want to cook up some great food this year-- I want to be adventurous and try cuisines I'm not familiar with using ingredients that are new-ish to me.  I want to pre-plan for holidays and start teaching these customs to my kids and have the ultimate holiday home, full of decorations and activities (and again that love, sharing, laughter bit).  I want to connect with new friends I'm making here and grow those relationships.

I want to feel accomplished with what I do.  I want to cut down on my stress and frustration and strive to live a fuller and quality life.  Getting slimmer would be really nice too, but I gotta get more realistic about that part before it happens.

Time's up!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Stupid easy Slow Cooker Terriyaki Chicken

This was copied from another site which apparently was spam-tastic, so Pinterest wouldn't let me move my pin.  No copyright infringement intended, its your own darn fault Pinterest pulled you!  ;-)

Crock Pot Chicken Terriyaki: 1lb chicken (sliced, cubed or however), 1c chicken broth, 1/2c terriyaki or soy sauce, 1/3c brown sugar, 3minced garlic cloves.  Cook on low heat 6 hours.  For thicker sauce: remove from crockpot and place in sauce pan.  Add 2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup cold water and bring to a boil for 1 minute.  Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Leek and Potato Bake

Leek and Potato Bake

1/2 pound potatoes
2 medium leeks
1 cup single cream
2 medium eggs
1/2 cup bread crumbs

salt and pepper to taste

Peel and slice the potatoes. Clean the leeks by slicing them lengthways and fan them out under running water. Slice these also. Layer the potatoes and the leeks in a greased baking dish, sprinkling a little salt and pepper over each layer. Mix the cream and eggs together in a separate bowl. Pour over the ingredients in the baking dish. Sprinkle some bread crumbs on top. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft and the top is browned.