Sunday, May 15, 2016

Quick Lit • May 2016

I have lately fallen a little bit in love with zero-based scheduling (but not for the reasons you might expect).  Much like zero-based budgeting, in which every dollar is accounted for and told how to behave, with zero-based scheduling, you take a look at your calendar and the list of tasks/appointments/etc and then you schedule the entire day down to the minute (okay, the hour).

It sounds constraining and painful, and I balked at first, but since I - like everyone else -  constantly sing the tired refrain of there-aren't-enough-hours-in-the-day, obviously something needed to give and this seemed worth a shot.

Because if what you're doing isn't working, then maybe it's time to try something new, right?

So far, I have learned a few valuable things.  (1) The train will get derailed and I absolutely will have to re-juggle the schedule as the day goes on.  (2) Holding too tightly to the original schedule will result in nothing more than frustration and tears.  (3) Using a pencil is advisable.

Interestingly though, what I am finding is that there are in fact more hours in the day, and I do have time for everything I want and need to do.  Namely, I wanted more time for nonfiction reading (I do my fiction reading at night when my brain has no interest in being filled with more facts), so I scheduled 30 minutes at the beginning of the day to drink coffee and to read.  

Eureka, right?  More time to read.  I am in love.

Today, I am linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy to share short, snippet-like reviews of the books I have read over the past month.

One Good Turn, the second in the Jackson Brodie series, takes the standard detective novel in a comically absurd direction, but oddly, it works. A bizarre and ridiculous series of events connects a disparate cast of characters in ways so laughably outlandish that the reader doesn't even have to suspend disbelief - the unbelievable coincidences are meant to be unbelievable, and they are, ultimately, the driving narrative force. It is a silly novel, but it is cleverly written, and I love the author (though this is one of her earlier - and definitely not one of her best - works).

Aim True is a glorious celebration of authenticity, yoga, nourishing food, inspiration, and natural beauty. Kathryn Budig, a beloved yoga teacher who fills her classes with laughter and physical challenges, effortlessly distills onto the page everything she has stood for in the yoga community: body acceptance, pushing physical limits, and finding one's own inner strength. Filled with beautiful photos, recipes for both food and for beauty products, multiple yoga practices, and joyful writing, this book will be a mainstay of my yoga library for years to come.

As far as loveably dysfunctional families go, the members of The Nest's Plumb family will go down as some of my all-time favorites. Four siblings have waited for years to inherit a family trust that was never meant to be more than a small gift, but has grown over the years into a Significant Amount. In the process of waiting for the youngest member to turn 40 (the date in which "the nest" will be disbursed), many of the Plumbs have leveraged the money ahead of time and find themselves in slightly desperate positions. There is the handsome Manhattan screw-up, the prim New England mom, the gay antique shop owner, and the once-promising novelist who hasn't published a book in 20 years, and the money that will either divide the family or give them each a chance to redeem themselves. Never heavy-handed, Sweeney manages to convey each of the characters' foibles in a way that keeps the tone light-hearted and more than a little hilarious. The novel rides the fine, beautiful line of beach read and literary fiction, and was riotously fun to read.

This post contains my affiliate links.  Thank you for supporting The Postmodern Planet.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Meal Plan • 5/8/16

All weekend, I have stared suspiciously at next week's schedule, hoping for some insight on how to Make It Work.  I gave the calendar the side-eye this morning (in fear), went over the details with the kids at lunch (in horror), and gave it a glance again a few minutes ago (this time, with dogged determination, because it doesn't matter how many activities we are juggling or how many work deadlines are looming, life is always a little bit off the rails and it's my job to make it work).

So that's what I plan to do: make it work.  And as we all know, making it work means sucking it up and just doing the work.  And doing the work, as I think we all know, includes making a meal plan to avoid the oh-crap-we're-starving-what-are-we-going-to-eat scramble.  Breakfasts will be green smoothies or whole-wheat toast topped with peanut butter, sliced apples, and cinnamon.  Lunches will be Rainbow Bowls (I often post pictures of my weekly lunch bowls on my Instagram feed) or leftovers from the previous night's dinner.  Dinners will be idiot-proofed: healthy-enough, easy, and fast.

MONDAY: Kale & Cannellini Bean Risotto & Spicy Corn on the Cob
This risotto is a long-time family favorite, and it is a recipe I can throw together in my sleep.  Bonus: it's a one-pot meal, and if I double it, the kids and I will have leftovers for lunch.

TUESDAY: Slow-Cooker Spinach Lasagna
This miracle meal is another family favorite, and since we have afternoon appointments that day, I can throw everything together in the crockpot after lunch so that we arrive home to a dinner that is hot and ready to be served.  To make it more nutritious, I usually double or even triple the amount of spinach called for.

WEDNESDAY: Crispy Black Bean Tacos
Another family favorite - I'm starting to see a pattern here.  This one comes together in minutes so long as pre-cooked beans are available (canned beans are even easier - there's no need to be a purist here, especially in a pinch).

THURSDAY: Coconut Curried Cauliflower Soup
I'm excited to try this recipe for the first time.   If it turns out to not be filling enough, we can always make popcorn for a snack before bedtime.

FRIDAY: Hungarian Noodles & Cabbage
This is another new-to-us recipe.  We have evening plans, and this looks like it will come together relatively quickly (I can finish up my work while it cooks) and we can scarf it down before heading out.

SATURDAY: Pear & Gorgonzola Flatbread, mixed green salad
Another new recipe.  Another evening when we need to eat and run.  I will buy whole-wheat flatbread from Trader Joe's to up the nutrition factor.

SUNDAY: I dunno, man.  Snacks?  Restaurant?  Starve to death?  Doesn't matter.  I don't cook on Sundays.

In other news, after years of using my smartphone as my planner/calendar/to-do list, I recently went back to using an actual-factual paper planner, and my productivity has shot through the roof.  A client & friend turned me on to Self Journal, and I am really digging the focus on short-term goals.  It's good stuff, friends, and it's free if you print the PDF yourself (I loved using the PDF for a short while, so I went ahead and bought a paper copy).  The goal-setting instructions and guidance in the first few pages of the journal (which you can also access for free) are super inspiring and it gave me the kick-in-the-butt I needed to get over the mid-year slump.

I would love to know if you still use a paper planner, or if you are thinking of returning to one.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Quick Lit • April 2016

The past four weeks have been the oddest, most bizarro reading weeks in recent memory.  I read about 1500 pages, which isn't all that unusual, but what was unusual was that all those pages were contained in two novels.  But two more wildly, madly different novels I don't think I could have chosen.

One was published in the past year, and is shortlisted for a dizzying array of literary awards.  The other was dystopian, slightly older, also won awards, but involved - oh, this is difficult and embarrassing to admit - vampires.

That's right.  I said vampires.

Well, sort of vampires.  More like bat-people, really, but who am I to parse words in this case?

Today, I am linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy to share short, snippet-like reviews of the books I have read over the past month.

A Little Life is a dark, disturbing, beautiful masterpiece of a novel, though it feels and acts less like a work of fiction and more like an emotional wrecking ball. The story follows four highly-intelligent, creative, and ultimately successful college friends from the time they meet in the dorm through the subsequent thirty-odd years of their lives in New York. Clocking in at 700-plus pages, the reader is absolutely enveloped in the character study of Jude, a psychologically damaged and deeply flawed lawyer, and these people who love him with an intensity and devotion that is both completely understandable and shockingly horrifying. My heart was ripped out of my body throughout the book and crushed between its pages, and I cried myself to sleep more than once in the reading. A Little Life is a book I will never, ever forget. {Trigger warnings - more than I can even list; sensitive types may want to give a wide berth to this book}.

The Passage is a dystopian novel of epic proportions, but somehow still defies being pigeon-holed into the typical commercial fiction categories.  In a nutshell, the end of the world (or at least the North American continent) is set in motion by a scientific experiment designed to extend life.  The testing is, as you would expect, taken over by the military and it - also as you would expect - goes absolutely and terribly wrong.  The first 250 pages lead up to, and slightly past, the end of the world event itself, and the characters and story lines woven throughout those pages are rich and gripping.  Then the book suddenly jumps ahead 92 years, and the action shifts to a new set of characters living in an isolated location amidst the aftermath of the virus.  The middle portion of the book takes a little getting used to as the new setting, new characters, and the new world they are living in are introduced, but it wasn't long before I found myself swept away by the story of their survival and their search for answers.  At 700-plus pages, the author takes the time and makes the effort to vividly bring the characters to life and to delve into subplots, and it is refreshing to see a story like this executed so well.  But be warned, this is only the first book in a trilogy, and one must be willing to truly commit some time to see it to the end.

This post contains my affiliate links.  Thank you for supporting The Postmodern Planet. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Quick Lit • March 2016

We have a long-standing family motto to never go anywhere without a book.  It doesn't hold as much weight as it once did, now that we have phones with ample reading material available and with us at all times, but the children still pack books every time we leave the house, and I am returning to my roots on that front.  I had about 30 free minutes recently between finishing up with a client and picking the kids up from their classes.  It was a beautiful day, so I parked the car, rolled down the windows, slipped off my shoes and reached for the book I had just picked up at the library.  It was glorious.

Since then, I have made a point to take my book even if the chance of reading seems remote, because one just never knows when a little window of free time might pop up like it did that one lovely day.  This morning, I knew the chances of downtime were unlikely when I left the house, but I brought my book anyway, and it proved serendipitous.  I arrived at a client's office for a meeting only to find he was running late, so I sauntered on in and made myself at home on his sofa with my book.  I would have gone slightly insane at those ten wasted minutes but for the chance to tuck back into a compelling story.

More than just the stolen reading moments though, I treasure the conversations that are sparked by the presence of the books.  Usually, it is just a bystander stopping to smile at the three of us with us books tucked under our arms as we walk into a waiting room, but sometimes a stranger will remark upon our choice of books, asking whether we have read anything else by the author perhaps, or regaling us with a story of why they enjoyed the same particular book.

I can talk about books all day long.  With anyone.

Today, when my client walked into the office, I tucked a bookmark into A Little Life and set it aside on the conference room table.  Another client popped his head into the room and pointed at my book. "What do you think so far?" he said, "The reviews have gone crazy for it, but a friend said it was very dark and it just made him uncomfortable."  

I was simultaneously dumbfounded and thrilled.  Here was a man I had worked with - at a distance, mind you - for a couple of years, and I had no idea he was a fellow book nerd. 

This, THIS, is why we should never go anywhere without a book.  Book nerds are the best, and they make me feel less alone in this bizarro world.

Today, I am linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy to share short, snippet-like reviews of the books I have read over the past month.  

Among the Ten Thousand Things is a startling novel about a family falling apart in the aftermath of an affair. Told from the points of view of both spouses would have been interesting enough, but what makes this debut novel such a standout is how the story unfolds in the eyes of the children. The misplaced anger of the teenager, along with the confusion and distress of the 11-year-old daughter, are painful and a little disturbing, but are presented with remarkable insight and clarity. The adults are a bit more one-dimensional, and I was never totally sure whether that was a purposeful move. The story briefly jumps ahead in time twice, offering a glimpse of how the affair ends up informing the children even as they grow into adulthood.

John Green is a master of YA fiction, and Looking for Alaska is a multiple award-winning standout in the category. The book's action centers around the relationships between Pudge, the narrator, his roommate, The Colonel, and their enigmatic, alluring friend Alaska. Tension builds early, as time is counted down towards an as yet undefined event, but which the reader knows will be A Big Deal. Boarding school students, clever pranks, interesting characters, teen angst, high drama, great wit, and a devastating defining moment all collaborate together to form one heck of a compelling story. However - and this is an important distinction, I think - this novel would fall a little flat for those readers who are not fans of the technicolor world of young adult fiction.

The Lake House is an epic, sweeping mystery packed with interesting characters, complex plotting, and a magical, well-drawn setting. Kate Morton's books are known for their uber-suprising twists at the end, and this one is no exception. A complaint I hear often about her books is that everything gets tied up nice and neat at the end - too neat, in the view of some readers - and while I understand the vexation over this (I myself prefer a loose end or two to be left to my imagination at the end), I am willing to suspend disbelief when it comes to Morton. Her mysteries are so well-written, and so expertly developed, and, in the case of The Lake House, so thoughtful and suspenseful at the same time. The book begins slowly, almost ploddingly for the first 100 pages, as Morton develops the characters and the multiple plot lines, but it is well worth sticking with as the next 400-ish pages are pure joy to read.

The third book in The Series of Unfortunate Events, The Wide Window is a darkly entertaining, utterly hilarious, very intelligently written children's story. In this installment, the Baudelaire orphans are once again moved to another new home in which horrible things happen and the evil Count Olaf, as you already suspected, shows up to commit heinous deeds. The historical references in this one are particularly absurd and comical, as are the vocabulary and grammar lessons that are woven in at the just the right times. These books beg to be read-aloud, and even the 12-year-old in our house has insinuated himself into story time in order to enjoy them along with the eight-year-old. Indeed, my older child laughs the loudest of all. As I have said about the previous two books in the series, I do not think these books are for sensitive children, but my children find them enthralling.

This post contains my affiliate links.  Thank you for supporting The Postmodern Planet.  

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Meal Plan • 2/21/16

The past two weeks have been nothing short of madness around here, full of work deadlines and social events and back-to-back appointments, and a client crisis that completely took over my life for three days.  I swear, there was a period of about a week and a half in which I only managed to cook dinner and get us all to the table together maybe twice.  That was a little embarrassing to admit, but there you go.  

Sometimes, life goes wacko, and you have to just throw your hands in the air and say, "Wheeeee," and ride it out.  Homeschooling fell by the wayside.  Laundry did not get done.  Errands were forgotten.  I haven't gone for a run in thirteen days.  And I said, "I'm sorry," about 57 more times than usual.

Life just got very life-y, you know?

We are slowly, ever-so-carefully reeling things back in now, but if I were to be completely honest, I should maybe just admit that being thrown for a loop is not as unusual of an occurrence as I like to make it out to be.  There are four humans living in this house, after all, and we are juggling three businesses and the education of the two youngest humans, and we all have hobbies that captivate us, and life is full and wonderful and interesting and our schedules are meant to be fluid and maybe I need to stop holding on so tightly to the idea that I might one day have it all together.

We are self-employed.  We homeschool, for crying out loud.  Our lives will never be predictable and simple and boring, and that is exactly why we chose to do these things.

For obvious reasons, there was no meal plan for the past two weeks.  We ate out a few times, we brought home pizza, we made simple, easy, I-can-cook-this-with-my-eyes-closed meals on some of the evenings.  The world did not come to an end and the kids did not starve, but it is just not optimal for us to fly by the seat of our pants when it comes to dinnertime.  So it feels goooooood to make a meal plan for this coming week.  

Still though, if I learned anything over the past couple crazy weeks, it is that having a handful of back-pocket recipes at the ready is crucial.  Back-pocket meals for us are the ones that don't have too many moving parts (no one needs to manhandle more than two pans on the crazy days), that use ingredients we keep on hand almost all the time, that can be made easily by either of the adults, that are healthy enough, that can simmer unattended long enough for me to run into another room and practice yoga for 15 or so minutes, and that do not take much time overall.  I am slowly adding these types of recipes to a special section of my recipe binder so we can flip there in an emergency without even breaking our stride (and let's be honest, just having a bad day can constitute an emergency).

Some of our current back-pocket favorites:

Knowing these easy options are available in a pinch has completely changed the way I respond to Emergency Days.  And if I'm freaking out less, the whole household runs more smoothly.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Quick Lit • February 2016

My to-be-read list has exploded over the past couple months, which gives me a certain sense of security.  There is, quite literally, nothing as satisfying to me as (1) knowing what I will read next, and (2) having my next vacation already planned.  Well, those things and whether I have a nice selection of teas in the kitchen.

And having a stash of good quality chocolate (this is starting to make me sound much more high-maintenance than I like to think of myself).

The Books on the Nightstand podcast, and Anne Bogle's new podcast What Should I Read Next? have introduced me to a ton of new titles, and I recently relaxed some of my spending freezes to allow for more book purchases (life is short, and books are worth it).  It was on one of the WSIRN podcasts that a guest mentioned the Book Passage book subscription club, and when I saw that two of my favorite books of last year were on it, plus another two of my favorites from 2014 were on the previous year's list, I began reading my way through the rest of their back catalog.  The choices have so far been splendid.

Today, I am linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy to share short, snippet-like reviews of the books I have read over the past month.  

Set in the 1930s, Euphoria is a novel about the intersecting lives of three young anthropologists who have settled in among isolated, unstudied tribes in New Guinea. Inspired by events that took place during three months in the life of Margaret Mead, the action focuses on the work of the married couple Nell and Fen at the time they station themselves near Bankson, an anthropologist who has been alone for a few years and who has lost hope in his ability to make a mark in his field. The tale is told through the POV of two of the characters as events occur, but also through flashbacks from one and journal entries from another. This structure builds exquisite tension, and the book is a quick, beautiful read. 

The Unfortunate Events series is captivating and great fun as a family read-aloud. The Reptile Room, continuing the story of the three orphans and the terrible events that befall them at every turn, brings more death and suspense and absurdity and laughter, and is written just as cannily as the first one. My eight-year-old is madly in love with the characters and we had a fabulous time reading this installment. Bonus: the vocabulary and the witticisms provide much fodder for discussion.

A young adult novel that is set in Nazi Germany and is narrated by death himself may seem particularly dismal, but The Book Thief manages to be both luminous and dark, both serious and light-hearted. At 552 pages, and taking place over about five years, the book traces the story of a young girl who is sent to live with a foster family in a poor neighborhood in a terrifying time in history. Forged relationships are a powerful force in the novel, as are stolen books, and the constant and overwhelming presence of a tyrannical government. The language is gorgeous, and there were sentences constructed so beautifully that I wanted to tuck them away in my memory forever. 

Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist takes place during the 1999 WTO riots in Seattle. The novel alternately takes the point of view of the police chief, two radical protestors, a Sri Lankan minister of finance, a couple of over-eager cops, and a young man who finds himself more deeply embroiled in the conflict than he meant to be. The action occurs over the course of only one day, and the tension builds skillfully as the day goes on and as the the chapters skip around between the main characters. I keep hearing comparisons to The Flamethrowers, but Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing is what kept coming to my mind, as the reader helplessly watches the characters each make choices that bring them closer to what you can only imagine will be more explosive than they intend. Both the tension, the prose, and the character development are masterful, though I found the ending to be a little unfulfilling.

This post contains my affiliate links.  Thank you for supporting The Postmodern Planet.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Meal Plan • January 31

• Monday: Creamy Avocado Pasta
• Tuesday: New Year's Noodle Soup, crusty baguette
• Wednesday: (leftover soup & bread)
• Thursday: Golden Bowl, brown rice, steamed kale
• Friday: Spaghetti with Fiery Marinara, lemon-basil bruschetta
• Saturday: Kale & Cannelini Bean Risotto
• Sunday: (I don't cook on Sundays)

Oh, friends.  I'm trying something WAY outside of my comfort zone, and I'm a little nervous even to speak of it.  Some friends and I have signed up for Wanderlust 108, and while that may not sound surprising (it is a yoga festival, after all)....


That's right.  A 5k.  Like, as in running.  With my own two feet.  Crazy talk, I tell you.

Y'all, I can do yoga all day long (and I have before, many times), but running is a whole 'nother thing.  It's just not in my wheelhouse at all.

I am determined though, and since the worst-case scenario is that I end up walking most of it, I think it's worth a try.  I have downloaded the Couch to 5k app, and I completed the first three days this week.  It was not easy, and each minute of running left me panting and red-faced and feeling like an idiot (not an unusual feeling for me), but it's also a little bit awesome, and I have learned a few things so far.

  1. My dog is way better at running than I am.
  2. The right music is crucial (right now, it's Beck's Midnite Vultures).
  3. I am going to need a better pair of sneakers.
  4. Doing a post-run-recovery yoga practice afterwards is the only thing keeping me alive (yogaglo has some that are perfect for this).
  5. I am going to need more calories each day.  More avocados, more nuts, more brown rice & whole wheat pasta...).
This week's recipes were chosen for their ease (Monday's pasta is super easy and extraordinarily quick), for their nutritional punch (beans & spinach in Tuesday's soup, beans & kale in Saturday's super easy risotto), and for the extra-healthy complex carbohydrates (every day).  Bonus: these are all family favorites as well.

Running may be absurdly difficult for me right now, but I'm stoked about having a new goal to work towards - especially with friends - and I feel fabulous.  Also, the cardio has ramped up my metabolism again, so that extra handful of pounds I gained over Christmas and that decadent trip to Savannah this month have already fallen off (yay), and I am once again sleeping like the dead every night.

Onward, I say.  One foot in front of the other...

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Quick Lit • January 2016

The post-Christmas lull was a glorious and relaxing time to fit in some good reading this year, and I took full advantage of every single luscious minute of it.  Included were a couple of books that knocked my socks off, a marginal book that made very little impression at all, the first in a very well-written detective series, more than one dystopian novel, and a children's book that I've been meaning to read for approximately a million years.

Today I am linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy to share short, snippet-like reviews of the books I devoured over the past four weeks.

Our Endless Numbered Days is an unusual and intriguing twist on the ubiquitous dystopian novel phenomenon.  In this novel, the eight year old narrator is taken into the wilderness by her father and told the world has ended.  For years, they live off the land, hunting and fishing, and living in a ramshackle off-grid cabin somewhere in the mountains.  Her father is a disturbed man, and the tale takes some disturbing turns.  Suspenseful and a little dark and twisty.

I wanted to love The Bookseller, because stories that present alternate lives for the characters usually float my boat, but this one was trite and predictable.  The protagonist, a single woman who owns a struggling bookshop with her best friend, begins to live a different life for herself in her dreams at night.  In this other world, she is married, has children, and is not involved in the bookshop.  The writing is just okay, and the ending - which I imagine is supposed to be the big twist - is unsurprising and ultimately disappointing.

Fates and Furies is such a breathtaking work of fiction that I am having a difficult time finding the right words with which to do it justice.  The writing is so stellar that each sentence begs to be savored, yet I devoured the 400-page novel in less than 24 hours.  It is the story of a marriage, yes, but also a tale of what lies beneath the carefully-composed surfaces, and of all that we hide even from ourselves.  There are twists, and the book is structured in a phenomenal mirror of the title itself.  This is easily one of the best books of 2015.  I will read it again.

A haunting, unforgettable debut novel.  In Did You Ever Have a Family, the story begins as four people perish in a house fire.  The point of view changes multiple times, as the aftermath is told by different people who were either peripherally or integrally part of the lives of those who died.  The intertwining lives and the ties that bind a community are both lovely and bleak, and while you might expect the book to be filled with nothing but overwhelming grief and sadness, the story itself unfolds slowly, expertly, and with remarkable restraint.

Book One of Kate Atkinson's Brodie detective novels is decidedly different from her most recent and deservedly best-selling novels, less epic in scope and not quite as mind-blowing in structure, but no less delightful.  Case Histories is more literate than many in its genre, even though it sticks to the relatively formulaic flawed protagonist, and it effortlessly juggles a handful of story lines that neatly converge as the tale progresses (maybe too neatly, but I was enjoying the book too much to quibble with its neatness).  Witty and fun.  I will definitely seek out the next books in the series.

The Dog Stars (yet another post-apocalyptic novel) takes place nine years after a flu has killed off much of the country's population (possibly the world, but that is unknown).  Hig, a former carpenter and hobby pilot, lives out West with one companion in an old small airport, and spends his time fishing, hunting, and flying his plane around the area on scouting missions.  The narration is unusual and almost diary-like in that there are incomplete sentences, missing commas, and inconsistent verb tenses at times.  This is clearly intentional, and the book is imminently readable, though the action is very slow at times (also intentional, it seems).  The ending felt a little abrupt, but I enjoy end-of-the-world fiction and found the restrained style of this novel to be intriguing.

Gloomy, funny, and completely ridiculous, The Bad Beginning had both me and my eight-year-old enthralled from the start.  Very fun read-aloud, but perhaps best for children who don't take things too seriously.  This is a tale of absurdly terrible things that happen to three siblings whose parents die tragically on, like, page two, but it is narrated with lightheartedness and acerbic wit.  Fabulous.  Can't wait to read the next one to my daughter.

This post contains my affiliate links.  Thank you for supporting The Postmodern Planet.  

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Meal Plan • 1/4/16

January is coming on like a freight train, friends, and I'm eking out the last couple minutes of relaxation before jumping in head first.  We have had the loveliest of holiday seasons, restful and rejuvenative, and oddly productive as well, but the busy time starts in five...four...three...

Actually, I think I've gotten pretty good at juggling the January madness in recent years.  A confluence of work deadlines happens for me at the end of this month, but rather than panicking this year, I happily agreed to a little five-day getaway that will fall right in the middle of the busy month, and I'm feeling pretty good about it all.

Don't get me wrong.  By the 20th, I will be in the middle of a full-on panic, but I don't think that's a good enough reason to miss out on the fun.

For now though, I am stoked about putting the pedal to the medal next week and Getting Things Done.  The meal plan and grocery list are ready to go, my brain is rested and excited about getting back to work, the lesson plans are ready for the kids to return to their own work, and I have even idiot-proofed my daily yoga practice by choosing to practice along with the daily featured online classes at Yogaglo at least until the payroll tax deadlines have been met.

Like I said,  I'm feeling pretty good.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Meal Plan • 12/28/15

The wheels came off over the past few weeks, as they do this time of year.  With everything on our schedule during the month of December, even bothering with a meal plan seemed overly ambitious, and so on the few nights each week in which we found ourselves all at home for dinner, I went for the quick and easy.  The kind of meals that can be made from pantry ingredients or that can be thrown together with whatever happens to be in the vegetable crisper.  It was exhausting and not as nutritious as I might have liked, but the meal plan just wasn't the mountaintop I was willing to die on.

Now though, it is Magic Week, those lovely days between Christmas and New Year's when work is easy, obligations are few, and time seems to be irrelevant.  Most of my clients are out of town or have gone quiet, I have suspended the kids' homeschool lessons for a few weeks, and my car is in the shop (again) so we are mostly tied down to the homestead for a little bit anyway.

Plus, I could use a little time to regroup.  I'm not much for New Year's Resolutions, but I do like to take the time every four months or so to tweak and adjust our schedules and our commitments, and to do a little planning.  New Year's is a natural time for this sort of reflection, but since I operate on more of a school-year kind of calendar (can't help it - I live in a college town) than a traditional calendar, I look at this particular time as a mid-year chance to pull in the reins and idle for a bit to evaluate what's working and what isn't.

One of the first things that jumped out at me that is working is the meal plan.  January is the beginning of my busiest season of work of the year, and that means I need to idiot-proof as many things as possible in order to avoid meltdowns (because sometimes, the center does not hold).  Re-instituting the plan now that Christmas is behind us was already on my radar, but it is nice to recognize the absolute importance of such a seemingly trivial activity in our lives.

Interestingly though, one of the things that isn't working is my list of reliable recipes.  Many have become boring to me, and boredom in any aspect of my life generally spills over negatively into other aspects, so clearly it's time to restore a little adventurousness in the kitchen.  Obviously, busy nights are not always terribly conducive to trying new recipes, but sometimes, changing my focus from numbers and reports to some time spent piddling in the kitchen with new flavors and techniques is just what I need to decompress from work.  As well, exercising a little creativity helps to remove blocks when I am struggling with a troubling desk project.

With those things in mind, and with the free time stretching so luminously ahead of me this week, I happily spent the better part of the day yesterday seeking new recipes.  Thus, five of the evenings this week have been filled with recipes I am excited to try, and it looks like we might actually be home together every night to enjoy some unhurried time at the table.

Magic Week is bliss.