The Great Lentil Experiment

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I love lentils. They are cheap, easy to make (no need to pre-soak), the third most protein from a plant source, and pretty much taste like whatever you cook them in or put on them. That you can add any flavor and cook to varying textures–toothsome to mushy–makes them versatile for many recipes. Up until now, my two go-to recipes have been lentil soup (from an old monk’s recipe, and found here online), and “Lentils Ranchero” from my beloved Frozen Assets cookbook. The soup is great, and I love the ketchup sweetness and cheesiness of the ranchero lentils, and they are also good for taco filling!

However, I feel the need to branch out. I really would like to make a tub of pre-cooked lentils, keep them in the refrigerator, and then use them for weekday lunches with many different flavors and recipes. Somebody else had this idea, too, so see here for awesome lentils!  I eat too much lunch meat or cheese for quick protein, and I figure having lentils on hand and knowing how to spice them would be healthier, more budget-friendly, and more earth-conscious. I am a flexitarian quickly moving towards full ovo-lacto vegetarianism, so there’s that, too.

Step 1, is knowing how to cook lentils. I know how, but here’s a how-to/refresher from thekitchn.com!

Step 2, is answering the question How long will lentils keep in the fridge? I’m really anxious about food safety, so looking this up at various sources, I see that the answer is 3 to 5 days in a covered container. OR (excitement!), freeze them in individual servings. I can see doing both. Some in the fridge for salads (eat first) then the frozen ones for hot lentils. I typically only keep things 3 days in the fridge, so it seems like I can stick by that rule.

Step 3, the fun part! Experimenting with flavors.

My first “recipe” was to heat up 1/2 cup of lentils, and add salt, pepper, cayenne, garlic, and thyme to taste then drizzle with 2 teaspoons of olive oil and sprinkle with 1 tsp. of parmesan-romano. They were tasty! These would be good with pasta or on garbanzo flatbread.

My second recipe was to marinate 1/2 cup in about 1.5 tablespoons of light balsamic vinaigrette. I’m going for easy things I might have time to do before work or bed! To those, I would have added chopped cucumber, grape tomatoes, bell peppers, and dill–that was the plan, but I didn’t get my shopping done before I needed to eat the beans. No worries! This is a great salad even without the veggies, and I tossed the lentils with a serving of couscous.

My third recipe–Lentil and Tuna Salad is something I thought might be a good idea, but I didn’t quite know what flavors to add. Google to the rescue!  Here are two recipes, somewhat similar, that work well with already cooked lentils if you sub in some onion and garlic powder that was missed in cooking the plain lentils–and otherwise improvise to get the flavors.  Lentil and Tuna Salad from The New York Times and Lentil, Tuna, and Roasted Red Pepper from Fine Cooking.com.

My fourth recipe–BBQ lentils.  We have lots of barbeque sauce leftover from a Fourth of July get together.  Mixing BBQ sauce and a little dijon in with lentils and serving on toasted whole grain bread is really yummy!  You can have a side of a pickle and maybe some coleslaw (I love store-bought cabbage mix and adding dressing as a to-go salad for work).  I think a slice of melted cheese on top would be great, too!

Since I made a smallish amount of cooked lentils, I’ll have to do a part two of this post for more ideas.

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New month, new focus–Butt in chair, fingers on keyboard

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I’ve long lived in hope that, one blessed day, I’ll keep a blog regularly–that I’ll find some kind of theme for my writing and my life and then magically be creatively fulfilled.  That all the strands of my life and interests and poly-autodidactery (I made that up!) will somehow come together and I can stand back and say, “Yes!  This is what my life means!  This is why I’m here.  This is what I am meant to create.”

Living in hope is good, but it doesn’t pay the bills or beat plain ‘ol butt in chair, fingers on the keyboard.  Discipline–to do things regularly even when I don’t feel like it and to follow through on all the things I start–is my weak point.  I know this about myself.  I’ve spent several of my 38 years lamenting it, denying it, working with it, working on it, procrastinating about it… I am not lazy or careless; I just follow rabbit trails of thought hither and yon and spend too much time in research mode.  Also, I spend too much time in social media mode, too.  I have no trouble talking to others online and I quite enjoy finding cool articles and new interests, but I squander too much time that way and also scatter my focus.

I’m going to be brave and try–again.  It’s only brave because failing so many times is disheartening. I feel like life is trying, failing, and trying again for me, but maybe as long as I do the last part, it will come out right in the end.

I know saying I’ll blog everyday is unrealistic.  I also know that I’m still unfocused on the purpose of this blog and what should go here and what should go in a journal or what should just remain in my head to rattle about.  My goal is to put my butt in the chair and my fingers on the keyboard once per day with the purpose of writing non-work-related and non-social-media things.  I think that most of my Facebook time would better be spent writing thoughtful posts on the things I need to speak about then posting them rather than commenting on various posts.  When will my once per day be?  I’d love to say mornings, but I think it will be in the evenings.  I’m a night owl, and I cannot deny it.  I can get up at 6 a.m. to do what I’ve gotta do, but writing coherent things is a step too far!

fingers on keyboard

Apparently, I’m not the only person with this issue, given the memes I found!calmbuttinchair

Starting over with Zombies, Run!

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This weekend, I’ve decided to start over with the Zombies, Run! app for my walking, jogging, wogging adventures.  I’m really aiming for 10,000 steps per day, and with a desk job (especially since I’m not teaching in the summer but in the office with advisees and data work), I pretty much have to do a couple of miles at least to meet that goal.

I adore Zombies, Run!; it’s such a good game and so well-executed.  The idea is creative and the voice acting is superb.  I like the premise–that you are a runner for Abel Township after the zombie apocalypse and you hear clips of the stories over your com radio as you run to collect supplies or serve as a decoy to lure the zoms away–and it’s fun to have a random zombie chase where you have to run 10% faster or lose items you’ve picked up.  The new update is particularly good, and I haven’t even gotten around to playing a lot with the special features like races, intervals, and side missions.

Hopefully, sticking with the story (whether I walk or run) will help me with the 10K goal and exercise goal.  Now, if I can just get up in the mornings….

Long time, no blog

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I knew it would happen.  I start a new blog, then life.  Or, I get all perfectionistic.  Or I get research-y and look for ways to have an awesome blog/business/brand.  Essentially, I do everything BUT write in my blog.  I had a plan to do certain themed posts each day.  Maybe I’ll go back to that, but more importantly, I think I just need to put butt in seat and fingers to keyboard–everyday.  Or almost every day.  Let’s not get try to be too perfect and shoot ourselves in the foot again, OK, self?

Even though I’ve failed at blogging, many things in my life are going really well.  Since quitting the PhD (which I might or might not talk about in another post), I’ve had actual free time WITHOUT the guilt of “I could be working on my damn dissertation.”  That was oppressive.  And I didn’t dig the field or want to do research or teach in it, and since I do not want to be a college administrator, I just literally and figuratively could not even anymore.  So, free time, yay.  And I switched jobs about 1.5 years ago.  Still doing stats for a grant, using the skills from my other job, but I’m teaching writing again and I’ve become  quite busy in academic advising.  Work life is good right now.  I don’t know what my final destination for what I want to be when I grow up is going to be, but it’s nice to be content for a little while.  Plus, I have a little more flexibility in my hours and a little extra time in the mornings and summers that I’m trying to use to best effect.

So thus, I’m prompted to write this blog to myself.  It’s summer!  Well, for academics.  My grades were due a week ago, I took a week of staycation and rested, read, and cleaned the house, and tomorrow’s a holiday.  My summer schedule begins officially this week, so I want to write down some goals for some things I’ve been working on.

Exercise is a biggie.  I was doing pretty well running (wogging) this winter until I came down with bronchitis that sidelined me for almost 8 weeks.  It was awful.  Plus, as I get older, I’m getting some pains (which might be fibromyalgia–and I might write more about that later, too), and I just wasn’t doing well with running and dreading the impact.  I’ve decided to vary it up.  I am going to do a walking for weight loss program, and sub in running for some of the faster “power walk intervals.”  My plan is to fit FitStar strength training and yoga in during my Miracle Morning routine (possibly moving yoga to night if time becomes an issue).  I’ll have to fit the walking in either in the morning, at work, or at night (my preferred–but I don’t get home until 7:30 p.m. during the summers due to work schedule).  I will make that work.

So, if I get up at 6, I can do my SAVERS–silence/meditation, affirmations, visualization, exercise (indoor with FitStar), reading, scribing/writing–pretty much before getting my daughter on the bus (and it’s the last week of school for her anyway!)  Then, I can eat and go for a walk from 7:30-8:30.  This could work.

So, I have those things.  To track, I’m using Habit RPG and Habit Factor app on my phone.

Some other things I’m tracking: creative time (to work on crochet, mainly), 10K steps, spending time outdoors, night routine (I’m still working on that one), journaling/blogging, setting an intention each day, 5 servings fruit and veggies per day, eating my macros, monthly savings (depleted recently due to a new heat pump and having the inside walls painted, but I’m glad we had the money!), and doing a weekly “repair” or home project.

Some other interests I’ve been following: reading non-fiction and fiction, listening to audiobooks from Audible (I am so in love), taking up an at-home kettlebell routine, cooking, using Cooking Light Diet recipes, and tidying my home the Marie Kondo way via The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

I plan to write about all of these topics, plus new apps I’ve found, new recipes, home projects, writings, summer adventures, the chronicles of our new kittens–Sugar and Bob, the Slightly Siamese–and other random and exuberant things.

I’m sure I’m forgetting something.  I’m a multipotentialite!

Wednesday What?

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I’ve been trying to figure out if I want Wednesday to be Writing Wednesday, Wellness Wednesday, Wacky Wednesday etc.  My husband, being dirty-minded and humorous, suggested Wanker Wednesday and suggested I write erotica one day of the week…  Um, no.  He also suggested Wombat Wednesday because, who knows?

wombat (This Wombat needs to brush up on apostrophes vs. plurals….)

I thought about Woo Wednesday….not the Gallup Strengths-Finder woo, but woo-woo as in conspiracy theorists.  (I love to go to message boards full of woo-woos…they get the news first, even in if they get it wrong).  As much as I’ve been working–advising, teaching, and TRYING to work on grant data–I feel like WHAT?! Wednesday (or WHAT NOW!) would be appropriate.  I guess that might be a Wry Wednesday.

what now

Apparently, this post has inadvertently turned into Word Wednesday, which seems appropriate for an English teacher’s blog, and I’m way past the 114 words I HAD to write in order to not derail on my writing Beeminder goal.

But I want to keep going!

Writing this has reminded me that Pizza Hut has half-price Wing Wednesday. Need to do that.

hot_wings_text_squash_hg_wht
Others:

Wow! Wednesday sounds like Vacation Bible School and Web Wednesday seems futile because I’d spend too much time ON the web looking for good sites to write about, but I would probably never get around to writing.  Wonky Wednesday would be OK, but too related to Woo-Woo.  Much better than Whiny Wednesday, though.

I could do Wise Wednesdays, upon which I hold forth on wisdom I either have or don’t have and need to obtain.

I could even do Woman Wednesdays and talk feminism stuff (like being able to vote, have jobs, enjoy being ensouled beings, etc.)

woman

Or Wiggly Wednesdays, just because I wanted to post photos of The Wiggles.  (I can’t believe my daughter, at six, thinks she is too old for them, now.)

wiggles

No.  I think I’ll keep it Writing Wednesday.  And you’ve just seen freewriting at work.  We’ll talk more about writing later.

Gotcha!

 

(Blame this post on a teaching hangover.  We’re talking about the writing process in class.)

Tech Nerd Tuesday–Beeminder is Bee-utiful

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I’ve decided that Tuesdays will be “Tech Nerd Tuesdays.” Just plain ol’ “Tech Tuesdays” would sound better, but a lot of the tech I use and love is because it helps me to expand my data nerd-ness in one way or another. Plus, this blog, if it’s going to have categories that reflect all my exuberance (ha!), has to have somewhere I can do write a post or five hundred about Doctor Who.

So, for my first technophile post… It’s 11:24 p.m. on a Sunday night and I’m working on this post for Tuesday. Am I just extremely organized and dedicated? No, and no. I’m not organized because this post was supposed to occur LAST Tuesday, and I’m not all that dedicated about much when I’m supposed to be sleeping. No, I have to write tonight, by midnight, at least 148 words in Draft (a really cool software I’ll blog about later), or I will go off my “yellow brick road” and owe Beeminder ten bucks.

Beeminder (this link opens to an overview) is a little hard for me to describe, but it is essentially a service that helps you track and put cool visual progress graphs and trendlines to your goals so you stay accountable. To put teeth in your goals, Beeminder has exponentially-increasing monetary penalties. If I get off track and wander off the wrong side of my trendline–my “yellow brick road”–I owe my pledge. A pledge can start at $5, then the next time you fall off the goal wagon, you’ll owe $10, etc. You can turn off this exponential wagering and keep it flat, but research shows that exponential penalties will help you find a rate at which the pain of going off-track is worse than the pleasure of being lazy.

In Beeminder, you set up each goal separately and how each is quantified weekly, and Beeminder gives you a buffer at the beginning and feedback each day. The “yellow brick road” is really a trendline with your goal line averaged right in the center and then it has an over and under–one side of the road is over the average you need to stay on track (aka the right side of the road) and the other side is the bare minimum you must reach to not derail onto the wrong side of the road (below your goal). You have a graph for each goal, and each day it tells you how many days ahead you are–if you’ve been particularly dedicated, organized, or used your buffer well–or how many days, hours, or minutes you have until you derail. It also gives you the bare minimum you need to stay on the road that day, the number to be right on your average track, and the number above which you can go to be a super-awesome overachiever and outperform your own goal. There are lots of other advanced tweaks you can make and lots of statistical nerdery you can get into, but I like the basic set-up just fine.  Here is a crappy screenie of my current goals, but it give you an idea of what Beeminder looks like with active goals:

 

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So far, I’ve been “beeminding” several goals: Running 10 miles per week, writing in my journal five times per week, writing 500 words per day in non-work, non-academic, non-journal writing (thus, the blog), moving 10,000 steps per day, strength training 3 times per week, practicing Spanish for ten XP on Duolingo, and tracking to-dos moved into “done” in Trello. The coolest part of Beeminder for me is how well it integrates with other apps. My running is tracked through RunKeeper, my steps tracked with my Fitbit, Spanish automagically imports from Duolingo, and my to-dos moved in Trello show up in Beeminder. I still track journal entries and strength training manually, and that helps keep me on my toes. Something about seeing my goals quantified and all graphed-out is motivating, and manually-tracking a few helps with keeping them all in mind. For the coders and hackers, Beeminder has made a way that you can tweak the code to integrate with any service you’d like.

To date, I’ve paid Beeminder fifteen bucks. I’ve derailed on writing twice and running once. I love the service, and I hope to not pay them any more. However, even when I’ve derailed, I always want to get back on the road. Beeminder is really helping me build some habits and work towards goals, even if I wander off into the bad neighborhoods of Oz occasionally.  And there’s even an iPhone app!

It’s now 12:32 a.m. and I need to go to bed. Perhaps Beeminding my bedtime is a next step….

Motivation Monday–Learning as a Reward

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So, it’s Monday, and I promised myself I’d start doing blog posts about motivation and inspiration and all that happy crap on Monday. Well, it’s Monday morning, the last week of work before classes start, and I don’t know that I feel particularly motivating this morning–as in, I SHOULD be running, but coffee and writing and random internet sounded so much better–but lest I let down the troops (consisting of myself and Beeminder, which is counting my words), I am posting anyway. Beware, though. This is only half-caffeinated and pre-shower.

Mornings are tough in my household. Nary a one of us is a morning person, and everyone is in a state of crankiness that is too unpleasant to describe. Also, Monday mornings are worse, because we’ve all had the whole weekend to devolve back into night owls. For example, I took a long walk last night, in the moonlight, at 10 p.m. I was not ready to sleep until 1 a.m. I had to get up at 6:30 a.m. to get the girl ready for the bus to first-grade–a girl who also probably went to sleep later than usual, despite our best efforts to get her into bed. You can see how this makes Monday mornings touchy. I even stole my husband’s house shoes because mine were too far away and my feet were cold, and well, monkeys. He documented this on Facebook:

So, the girl is on the bus, the husband is at work, and I’m one coffee into the day with warm feet, so here’s my very first motivation tip. In getting ready for this blog post last night, since I was awake anyway, I read this article from Garth Sundem at Psychology Today about rewarding behavior.  The author reviewed a study from the journal Child Development about how bribing your child to behave (or “incentivizing behavior,” to be more scholarly and put it in his words) is sure to backfire and actually slowly kill intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is the kind you want. It’s the kind that comes from inside and keeps you doing something because you truly want to, as opposed to extrinsic motivation, which comes from outside expectations or impositions.

In the study, it was discovered that three to five-year-old children who have to do a boring task are more likely to keep at it longer if they are given “causally rich” information. This worked better than even a sticker. (I’m a sucker for star charts, even at the advanced age of 37.) By “causally rich,” they were promised and given information about a strange animal or machine, etc., but the information wasn’t just descriptive–it had purpose and meaning, or, as the name implies, the information causes an effect. Instead of a tail that drags the ground when an animal walks (descriptive), the animal has a tail that rattles in order to scare other animals away (causally-rich). The idea is that this rich information is more rewarding to children’s brains than other types of incentives (which are now well-known to actually reduce intrinsic motivation) and/or leads to more engagement with the boring, unpleasant task. The intrinsic desire to learn can lead to motivation to complete the task, whereas an external reward might backfire.

All of which got me to thinking. My child is fairly strong-willed and not very easy to convince that doing hard, unpleasant things is worth it. She might have a point, but we still have to do things like chores, get up early in the morning, take baths, and such. I’ve tried reason and appealing to her otherwise abundant good nature, but her logic dictates to her that NOT doing an unpleasant thing certainly beats doing it. However, she loves to learn, and she is my little scientist. She particularly loves interesting facts about animals and thinking about their lives and habitats.

So, I’m collecting juicy animal facts and stories, and we’re going to give this a try. If she’ll get up and dressed with no fuss, in the time before the bus, I’ll find the most awesome animal adventures ever to tell her about. I’ll report back how it works. If it works for mornings, then we might try it for chores. Better living through science!

And what about for me, since I don’t like getting up early, either? Can I learn anything from this kid motivation hack to help me get up and want to run in the mornings? I might never want to run, but maybe I can find some source of information compelling enough to reward myself with. Could it be the news? Checking Facebook? God knows it would be nice to leverage social media fixation for something positive. Maybe I’ll promise myself to find meaty tidbits of info on blog topics or Doctor Who? I don’t know; I’ll be thinking on it.

Chakra Pendant

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red jewel

As an extension of my art journaling, I’ve felt the need to move into making some jewelry pieces.  This is my first wire-wrapped piece ever, and I did it to correspond with the first ChakraART lesson on the root, or muladhara, chakra and its particular energy.  I love this red stone and I had much fun making this with silver-coated wire–although my fingers are so sore!  I look forward to making more jewelry and learning more about wire wrapping.

Art Journal: Root

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muladhara 1

This is my first assignment for the ChakrART workshop.  This is the journaling I did after thinking about the first (root) chakra and its energy.  This is the energy of the earth and grounding– of feeling safe and trusting.  I have problems with anxiety and feeling safe in the world, so this was a helpful exercise.  I discovered that I resist “grounding” because I try to live in my brain and intellectualize everything and turn things into problems to be solved with logic. Sometimes, intuitive knowing is a good source of knowledge, and just BEING is superior to thinking too hard about it!  I feel that, by being more mindful and attentive to the physical, I will regain some balance and reduce my anxiety levels.

Pink Impermanence (Anicca)

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pink impermanence

This is my newest art journal page, and I liked it so much I put it in a plexi frame I had hanging in my office.  It has “automatic writing” with metallic gel going two ways across the page–I just free-journaled how I was feeling about some things in my life, and the text hides itself while making a nice background.  Then,  I used Dylusions ink sprays and water spray for the colors, over a very light gesso layer.  I put down some painters tape and sprayed over a couple of areas.  I also added a toner print transfer of part of a black and white mandala.

The funniest thing is Sophie was “helping” me  and poured my whole glass of paintbrush water on my journal.  So, I had to hurry to the rescue.  The smearing, the hole, the fact I had to tear it out of the journal–all these were a happy, messy accident.

I don’t know if this is done.  I see an accidental bird at the top that I might want to highlight, and I was going to put text stamps in the yellowish square towards the bottom.  Still thinking about it.  This one is called “Pink Impermanence.”  🙂