Monday, September 23, 2019

imelda

Houston has a tendency to get really worried about weather. I've lived here my whole life and I tend to know when to ignore it vs. when to pay attention. Post-Harvey, I try to at least pay a little attention - I mean, I make sure we have gas, some food on hand, and that I watch the news. Bare minimum attention.

So last week it was supposed to rain a lot but no one knew how much or how spread out it would be. Andrew works 30 miles from home so on Tuesday night, he set his alarm for a bit later on Wednesday since the weather was supposed to be bad that morning. That way, there would be enough info on the news for him to see if the roads were safe and give his company a little more time to cancel work, if needed. I want to say there was some rain, but nothing major, so he went to work and all was fine. He approached Thursday the same way... got up a few minutes late, checked on things, all was fine, so he went to work. It seemed that most of the rain had been in our part of town (northeast) and things were soggy, but not scary.

I want to say after he left, the decision was made to cancel school in the district we live in. But, Houston ISD was in, and most of the city lives and breathes by their schedule. If they send kids to school, it normally isn't that bad in the rest of the city.

I woke up at 7:00 that day. I had a Starbucks freebie and really, really wanted my first salted caramel mocha of the year. But it was raining pretty steadily and there was thunder and I decided it wasn't worth the tiny risk that I might get in a fender bender or anything. So I stayed home. I also normally judge Houston weather by if they go wall-to-wall coverage or if there is programming as usual. The local news went right into GMA, so I didn't worry much. 8:00 rolled around so I got to work. Around 9:00, I realized that it really hadn't gotten any lighter out since 7:00. Our power went out (luckily for only about 10 seconds, literally), and I could feel the thunder from my office on the second floor.

I had a work call coming up, but I ran downstairs to see how our street look. I didn't expect anything since our street had no flooding during Harvey but this time, the water was up over the curb and sidewalk and creeping into our yard. It was uncomfortably close to my car in the driveway. (Our cars are in the driveway because the garage is full of smokers and BBQ stuff, naturally). I put on rain gear and ran out to parallel park my car as well as I could in front of the garage door. Then I got on facebook to see reports on our neighborhood facebook page that others had similar amounts of water in their yards.

The rain stayed steady and started to move to the south, toward Andrew's office. His street floods in the slightest downpour but generally recedes pretty quickly. I had my call, he ran out to grab lunch, and it started to clear up at the house. The water receded a ton - the sidewalk was clear and the streets would have been fine to drive on. Unfortunately, a neighbor's two-door convertible parked in the street didn't make it. I walked down our cul-de-sac to the pedestrian bridge that leads to a major road and there was a river in front of me. If I looked to the left, I could see the surface of the road - it was like the area right in front of me dipped down enough to collect a lot of water. Cars were parked on the median (luckily it was a large, grassy median) from people who must have gotten stuck in the area unexpectedly. I saw a Mercedes in front of me. The wipers were going but I couldn't tell if there was someone in the car. A man was going around helping people and convinced the driver to reverse so that their car wouldn't continue to fill with water. I wanted to help, but I honestly didn't know what I could do.

I went home and tuned into twitter and local news, which by this point had gone to wall-to-wall local coverage. The rain that had been in my area was now covering the city and going over already-saturated ground. People wanted to get home before it got worse but streets had high water. Kids were at school and everyone was wholly unprepared. Around 1:30, the radar looked clear from Andrew's office to home so he decided to make the trip. I texted him "are you sure that's the best idea?" but everything looked fine - both roadways and weather - so he headed this way. I, of course, was a worried mess because we say "turn around, don't drown" here for a reason. Sometimes, the water just comes up fast.

I was kind of working but mostly watching the news when a highway intersection I knew he would pass came up. I saw cars getting by, one lane at a time, along the left shoulder. I texted Andrew to warn him to get over to the left when he got there and he was already there and it was slow. No big deal, I thought, people are getting by, and we knew this was going to take a while.

Then the news showed the traffic cam there again. I saw a truck with flashing lights and a school bus. A few minutes later, they showed it again. The truck with lights was blocking the only open path and the school bus had barely moved. No one was getting through. Of course, I texted Andrew to let him know. He said it was barely raining and figured it would recede enough to open soon. The news said that cars had started to float while trying to get through and people had to be rescued. So I reported that to him, too. He sat.

Nothing changed and no one moved. I saw on the news that people were getting over to the right, going UP an on ramp, and ending up... somewhere else? The ramp went up, so it presumably wasn't flooded but I didn't know what it was. Some freeway. I told Andrew this, and eventually, after he was able to make his way from the left to the right, he did that too. And then u-turned on the freeway and figured out how to get towards home. Thanks to facebook, I was able to report which path was clear and he got home, finally. Almost five hours after leaving.

Someone died at the spot where I get on the freeway pretty much any time I go outside my suburb. People whose homes just flooded in May were flooded again. A ton of people lost cars and kids were stuck at school since no one knew this was going to happen. We were caught off guard. This many 100 year floods aren't supposed to happen in the same few years. It was a weird, stressful day trying to check in on people and make sure everyone was safe, or could get to safety. It shouldn't be commonplace to call the Cajun Navy and see boats going down roads. But that's where we are at. I love this city, but it's exhausting, and none of it has ever been that bad for me. Yet. It seems like it is just a matter of time before I or someone close to me gets destroyed by this weather.

I wrote this long-winded post just to document the day and the feelings for me. Having your person on the roads is nervewracking. I trust him, but not other drivers, and not nature. I'm grateful for our safety and can only hope our luck continues through the next storms...

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

a schedule as self-care

For the longest time, I have blamed not blogging on many things, but often our ancient MacBook that made me want to throw it across the room every time I touched it. Only I am too weak to get it to go anywhere. It really is that old and heavy.

I wanted a chromebook because I have a laptop for work and just needed something to online shop on. I hate tablet and phone shopping. So I almost just bought one on Prime Day but Andrew's partner in all things BBQ works for a maker of technology and had said he could loan me one indefinitely, so here we are. If it's free, it's for me.

But back to the point of the story - I am now out of excuses and have to face the hard truth: I have forgotten how to write a blog post. Do I write a story? A list? Can I repeat things you may have already seen in instagram stories?

Not sure what the answer is here, but I guess I can share some things swirling in my head.

I've been thinking a lot about self-care and what it means to me vs. what it means to the internet. I feel like the internet equates it with facemasks and bubble baths, and cool if that works for you. What works for me - or at least, works lately - is being more intentional with my time and knowing where it goes. I don't really follow any of those financial gurus but I know part of their thing is to pay yourself first, and I am trying to do that with my time lately. I'm thinking about where my time goes and how I want to spend it. I opened a page in my journal and imagined how my time would be spent on an ideal work day. It was something like this:

7 - 8: Wake up, feed cat, do something I want to do or that will make my afternoon better (journal, scroll the internet, load the dishwasher, meal prep, walk the dog, watch GMA). The goal here is to get up and do something, not sleep until 8 a.m. and then roll out of bed and go upstairs to stop working.

8 - 4: Work. I work from home every day and usually just eat at my desk. Since this is an ideal day, I would get something personal done like a load of laundry, throwing food in the crockpot, making an appointment, or something else productive.

4 - 7:30: My goal in this 3.5 hours is to make and eat dinner, go to the gym, and walk the dog. This doesn't always work since sometimes I lay on the couch at Bauer's insistence when I'm done working and stay there way too long. Some dinners take forever to make after the gym and some days Andrew cooks and I end up with extra downtime. Stuff like that. But that's the goal.

7:30 - 10: Hangout time with Andrew, usually watching baseball or something on Netflix. Just regular evening downtime, but in reality this is when I usually do dishes, shower, and stuff like that.

10 - 11: Read in bed time. I need this time to wind down or else I can't sleep.

For whatever reason, seeing this written down has helped. I know where I want my gym window to be, and I look at the class times for the classes I want to take, and I try to choose dinner prep that fits in those windows. I try to force myself to get up and do something at 7 a.m. instead of lounging til 8:00. I have also found that I feel better if I moisturize, use some brow gel, and put on mascara in the mornings. It makes work calls where everyone shows up on video much less awkward. It also lets me know where I can do better or should do more. Like I should factor in some time for using my HeadSpace app or jotting something in my bullet journal each day. Having days that closely resemble my ideal days feel like an accomplishment now because I know I got all the things done I need to feel good. And I guess, that's my self-care.

As a whole, I'm trying to be more conscious of how I spend time. I joined a volunteer program because honestly, I have a lot of time that I spend doing nothing and I could use it for something better. I did my first volunteer shift over the weekend and really enjoyed myself. I'm creating a niche for myself at work to better account for my work time. My word of the year for 2018 (not a typo) was Intentional and though I am a little late, I think I'm really living into it now. Better late than never, I guess.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

thinking lately

A lot of things have just been rolling around in my head lately.

The best decisions are last minute decisions. Twice in 2019, I have waited until the last minute to buy concert tickets. First was for The Avett Brothers, who I have already seen... twice, at least? And we are seeing them again in Denver next month. But anyway, I started to have FOMO the day of their concert so I got on StubHub and got last minute e-tickets for less than face value. We were in the absolute last row, but it was a small venue, I got a seat, and the poster was an astronaut riding an armadillo so all was good. I mentioned to a friend that we should go to Dave Matthews Band together because Andrew didn't want to go and she and I went a few years ago. I was really loose with the tickets because I wanted a deal. And I have seen Dave quite a few times and didn't need to go again, but it's always a good time. So anyway, this too waited until the day of the show. I said if I didn't get tickets by 5pm, we just wouldn't go. StubHub tickets weren't getting cheaper, so I checked Ticketmaster and for some reason, some seats were marked down to the same cost as lawn seats. I had no idea this was a thing but I guess since the show wasn't sold out, it became one. So at 4:45 I got tickets, we went to the show, and had a great time. I think this is my thing now.

Thrifting. It really is a thing I like to do. For a while, I did it a lot and sold things on Poshmark, but I feel like that site is oversaturated with the brands I find (J. Crew, Banana Republic, Loft) so I guess now I can focus on me. Do I NEED clothes? No. But if it's $1.50 then yes. It also makes me feel better about consumption. I see so many people posting about Amazon and Walmart fashion lately and while I will never fully rid myself of cheap consumer goods, the prices on those things HAVE to mean that they are being made via the suffering of someone else. So, I guess the compromise that will work for me is to fill my closet with thrifted things and only buy new if I fall in love with something, or if it's something more challenging to thrift, like jeans.

TV. So much TV.  Lately I have watched:
- Brene Brown's A Call to Courage (Netflix). Watch it. Go. Change your thinking.
- The Society (Netflix). Modern teenager Lord of the Flies. Passed the time okay and intriguing enough to keep me going, but not a must-see.
- Dead To Me (Netflix). I liked this but I didn't love it. I liked the characters and would like to see them in a different setting.
- Sneaky Pete Season Three (Amazon). Kind of bummed they cancelled this one. Everything was pretty well resolved, but I think a few things would have changed had they known it was the last season.
- Killing Eve (S2). I think I liked it better than the first.

Spiked Seltzer. It is so refreshing. Some of it tastes beery, but some doesn't. I think it will be really easy to go overboard on, so I try to drink it in moderation.

I am now in the Hamilton cult. Saw it and loved it. Totally didn't get it from just hearing the music. If you think you might like it and you have the means to see it, GO. If not, I will respect that. If you are also a cult member, please send me all the most interesting things you have seen about the show or its music. I have about five years of fandom to catch up on.

We're going to Denver in a few weeks. Any recs? We're going to a concert and to see the Astros in town playing the Rockies but things to do downtown during the day would be great...

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

add it to my list: april 2019

Basically I just feel like sharing some things I bought lately and love or otherwise highly recommend.

MAC In Extreme Dimension 3D Lash Mascara - I was gifted a Birchbox for my birthday and a sample of this was in one of my first few boxes. I have short, straight, not very dark lashes and I can never find a mascara I love (Better Than Sex disagrees with my skin and makes me look like a raccoon within a few hours, sadly). I tried this and I love it and used some Ulta rewards to get it for not much more than drugstore mascara would cost. It doesn't work for many reviewers, but I like it a lot.

Fetch Rewards - For whatever reason, I stopped using Ibotta. Then I learned about Fetch Rewards and honestly, it is so easy - you get points just for scanning and it finds offers worth points FOR you - that I have used it ever since. Basically you scan all of your grocery receipts within 14 days of purchase for points which can be redeemed for gift cards at Amazon and other places. I always end up getting something at Target that could be purchased at a grocery store, so I scan those, too. I haven't redeemed anything yet, but honestly it's such a quick process that I don't mind if it adds up slowly. If you want to sign up, use my code WQ3KV for 2,000 points for both of us.

Mrs. Meyers Multi-Surface Cleaner Concentrate - Like many people, I like the scent of Mrs. Meyers over cleaners that smell more, well, cleaner-y. I was buying small bottles at around $3.50 each and when Andrew would do a pop-up or we would cook a big meal, we would go through them SO fast. I realized that they have concentrate that you can mix with water and do the same thing. A bottle of concentrate is $7 and lasts forever (at least, it seems like it so far). I got some glass spray bottles of Amazon and it is one less thing to recycle regularly or have to remember to buy.

Welch's Island Fruit fruit snacks - I got these on a whim at the grocery store and they are delicious. A nice change from your regular flavors if you like to mix things up, and a pretty low-calorie way to indulge your sweet tooth.

Archer and Olive notebooks - You know by now that I entered the world of bullet journaling. I started with a Leuchtturm 1917 dot grid notebook since that is where nearly everyone starts and it was really easy to impulse buy at the bookstore that hosted bujo class. It was fine - no complaints. But, at another class at Brazos Bookstore, someone brought up Archer and Olive notebooks. Someone bought one and I touched it and loved the floral covers and thick white paper. Then Bre got me one for my birthday but being the consummate saver-of-trees, I vowed to finish my LT before starting it. Well, I have two pages left in my LT and in the same of having all of the same month in one journal, I'm starting it this week. It is far more exciting than it should be. I started working on my future log and the paper's thickness and smoothness makes me want to write. I have the pink flower dot grid and it's so pretty.

I'm sure I want to share more things but stopping at five feels good. Let me know if there is something you have been loving lately...

Thursday, April 25, 2019

mealplanning strategy

I have never actively thought about mealplanning, but from the time Andrew and I started cohabitating (2007...), he was the "adult" and I came from my parents' house, so we did a lot of things his way and grocery shopping was one of them. Whereas my mom and her sisters and my grandma keep fully stocked pantries with canned goods, buy things on sale just because, and have extra freezers for meat, we figure out what we are going to eat for the week and buy that.

Before Pinterest, I was inadvertently mealplanning. Now that I eat three meals a day at home during the week, I try extra hard to mealplan. Few things are more annoying than the "there is nothing to eat in this entire house" feeling. And I was chatting with a friend about this and she liked my approach so I will share because, why not?

We generally eat dinner at home Sunday - Thursday. There are two of us. I don't eat shellfish, we rarely eat beef at home (Andrew gets enough of it with BBQ life and it is never my favorite), I don't cook pork, and we rarely eat fish since we both prefer it fresh and have to eat it the day we buy it and that is too much commitment. I don't like canned veggies and I will spend more on meat if it is easy to cook (ie, premade raw meatballs that I can pop in the oven, already marinated chicken...)

Andrew went to culinary school; I started doing more of the cooking since working from home. I'm afraid of undercooking meat, I have awful knife skills, and faster is better. I try to avoid too many convenience foods, a ton of carbs many nights in a row, and only ask Andrew to cook one weeknight per week since his workday is about 12 hours long, including the commute.

Okay, so onto the strategy - Step 1 - Pick a meal that can last for two nights. Cooking is dumb and I like to maximize my time. If the two night meal is something Andrew will cook, we normally have it on Sunday and then Tuesday. If I cook it, it can be any night, but normally it's Monday. Some two night meals that we go to are enchiladas, black bean soup, chili, harissa chicken (one night with cous cous, the next night over salad), stuffed shells, Chinese chicken, or Mediterranean bowls. If we want to have a "bun" food, like veggie burgers, we'll usually plan a second bun food, too. So there are 2/5 nights.

Step 2 - Pick something easy - There is always a night where we don't want to cook, but our "going out" options are limited (read: we are picky and don't like the suburban chains surrounding us) so having something super simple on hand saves many dinner debates. This can be a big salad with pre-shredded rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, salad and a frozen pizza, omelets, ravioli, Trader Joe's orange chicken with rice or frozen veggies, Trader Joe's frozen Indian meals with naan, or veggie quesadillas. I also grab quick options on Costco runs. I grabbed a gyro kit a few weeks ago that we both really liked, and it was a nice change. We're now at 3/5!

Step 3 - Try something new. Typically, this is a new recipe I want to try. Bonus points if it's enough for leftovers. I try to pin things on Pinterest, but occasionally something at the store will catch my eye. Trader Joe's has raw, pre-seasoned chicken in different flavors so that falls into this category. My grocery store also sells Hello Fresh kits, so if those are on sale, I will grab one. I use Skinnytaste and Iowa Girl Eats for recipes most often.

Step 4 - An old faithful and/or something Andrew will cook. A lot of things fit into both of these categories. I don't cook pork, or chicken on the stove. I can cook ground turkey, but I like it better when he does. In a normal week, I'll plan a meal in this category like tacos, lettuce wraps, a sheet pan meal (chicken sausage + veggies), pork and veggies, spaghetti and meatballs, things like that. And that's all 5 meals for the week!

Since I work from home, I also have to plan my breakfasts, lunches, and snacks. Those are way less exciting. For breakfast, I love Siggi's Greek lemon yogurt. I keep those on hand, but some mornings I just want a Kind bar or some fruit. I also get Naked smoothies when I catch them on sale to get some extra fruit in. My lunches are most often an "adult lunchable" in which I take the kids concept of a lunchable - meat, cheese, and crackers - and then add carrots, cherry tomatoes and hummus or dip. By getting different meats, cheeses, or crackers each week and switching up the dips, I somehow don't get too bored of this. I'll also get a salad kit most weeks, so my lunches are two salads and three lunchables. I need to have SOME kind of option or I tend to get annoyed.

We do get into food ruts, and I try to write down things that I try or bookmark or pin recipes that are hits. I also follow Costco and Trader Joe's accounts on Instagram so I can see their new products and grab them if they look good. As far as a grocery budget, I don't really try to keep one since I know that if we don't eat at home, we will go out, and that is way more expensive and more calories so I figure anything from the store is a better choice.