Avoid, embrace meal planning: success!

I am sold on this meal-planning gig. Not only did I successfully make three meals last week – counting last night in last week because one of the meals was postponed – but I brought snacks to work every single day.

I did not, however, manage to get my tea-making system set up at work yet. I plan to this week.

The verdict on the recipes: the meatloaf was great, as usual. The Indonesian peanut butter chicken did not have enough flavor but I think that is because I used regular-sized drumsticks instead of drumettes. Note to self and to you if you are also making this recipe: drumettes are key. The Indian curry was pretty good but, again, did not have enough flavor. I felt like it should be sweeter. FunkyPlaid suggested raisins and I think he’s onto something.

Quinoa was the real winner this week. It is significantly easier to cook than rice, and I prefer the taste.

The big loser this week? Hard-boiled eggs. I ate just two of the seven I cooked. Day three those eggs looked at me and I looked at those eggs and there was just no way. I guess I don’t like them as much as I thought I did.

My next big hurdle is eating leftovers without a microwave to reheat them. It is a weird thing to be lazy about, I know, but I really, really miss my microwave. It was perfect for reheating small portions. And thawing things sans microwave is a real pain in the ass, so freezing leftovers is the equivalent of a death sentence in our house. I have perfectly good homemade spaghetti sauce in the freezer right now. (Thanks, StillTasty, for confirming its untouchable goodness.)

Eventually I will remember to take photos of food while I make it!

Avoid, embrace meal planning.

As mentioned in my previous post, I am attempting to exhaustion-proof my kitchen by planning meals out in advance and stocking up on healthy snacks and lunches. I have been resistant to meal-planning because I avoid creating additional structure around my diet so I can act like I still have a little freedom despite the gluten-free stuff. This makes the topic a good candidate for my next “Avoid, Embrace”. So here we go …

There are two main issues to address. The first is that while I often want to cook dinner I am also often rushed and/or exhausted. That also impacts my lunchtime and snacking habits; if I am pressed for time and have nothing on hand, I’ll either not eat (and then gobble too much for dinner later) or eat something unhealthy that I can find on the go.

Yesterday I created a meal plan for the week in Evernote so I can access it on my iPhone while I am at the store. I wrote down the evenings we will be at home together around dinnertime – only three this week – and then paged through some cookbooks for inspiration. I decided on:

I chose Monday’s and Saturday’s meals because I hadn’t tried the recipes before and I adore my slow-cooker. Also, on Saturday night we need something quick to eat before we head out to our friend’s party, so this will be all ready to go when FunkyPlaid gets home from work. Friday’s meal is an old stand-by, my mom’s recipe for meatloaf that is an occasional indulgence of ours.

After adding the ingredients for the week’s meals to my grocery list, I then added some items for my healthy snacks and lunches this week: carrots, grapes, bananas, almonds, eggs (to hard-boil), hummus, yogurt, Pamela’s gluten-free bread mix, and curry kale chips. This last snack blew my mind a little bit. I had eaten kale chips before, but not ones that made me want to make my own.

Last night, I hard-boiled some eggs and made a loaf of bread. I also packed my lunch before going to bed, a trick I had known since I was old enough to pack a lunch, but had somehow forgotten along the way, causing every morning to be a sad little rumble around the kitchen, opening and shutting cupboards ineffectually, leaving with a protein bar in my hand that is somehow magically supposed to turn into two meals.

Some progress has been made. The next step is to kill my Starbucks habit, because I have been pretending that a green tea latte counts as breakfast. Tomorrow I will bring my tea set to work!

Avoiding, embracing email: one week later

Here is my one-week check-in for my Avoid, Embrace project on email. So far, the biggest change I have made is in filtering out forwards into their own folder. In Gmail, I used this filter to do the trick:

from:(email address of forwarder | email address of another forwarder) to:(-my email address) Do this: Skip Inbox, Apply label “SA/Forwards”

I chose to deal with them as “announcements” per ActiveInbox’s built-in label category, but you can use anything you like.

Filtered out into their own folder, I can look at the subject lines and delete accordingly. Now the only items in my “Someday” category are things I want to legitimately do or review someday. This is a huge win!

The “Time” labels have been somewhat helpful, but because I am on spring break this week, I am just going through messages regardless of how long I think they might take.

I have been setting meaningful deadlines, for the most part, but I am pretty lazy at the moment so there are some un-deadlined items floating about that I need to attack.

The state of my email, as of right now:

  • Flagged items: Zero!
  • Action items: Twelve, up from ten. I moved some mislabeled “Someday” items here.
  • Waiting On: Four, down from seven. Resolution, hooray!
  • Someday: Forty, a mere third of last week’s 120.

It looks pretty good from here.

Avoid, embrace the email situation.

Next up in my Avoid, Embrace project: the email situation.

Step one: write about something I have been avoiding.

My email is now not a tool but a situation. I have ActiveInbox chugging along, filing things away merrily so that I have Inbox Zero. This is nice.

What is not nice is the 132 emails that need some sort of attention on my part. (That number increased to 137 just since I started writing this. Yikes.) I look at these emails in their pretty little categories that make sense, but I don’t do anything with them.

Clearly, the first ones I need to tackle are my Flagged items. I flag email sparingly; it usually means that if I do not do this as soon as possible today, something Very Bad will happen. There is only one thing here today, and I can get it done this afternoon. Good! Yay!

The next category is the generic Action, or things I need to do something about, be it read closely, respond, or create a to-do on my list. Right now, there are ten items. This is where I get bogged down. I look at the list and I do not see anything I can do within two minutes (a GTD trick). So I go somewhere else.

Then there are seven Waiting On items. These don’t require me to do anything yet, but could turn into Action items at any moment. They make me uneasy, just sitting there all unfinished-like.

The big bad is the Someday category, with 120 items. I sense I am putting things in Someday I should either just throw away (hello, forwarded Maxine comics, do you really need me to reply “haha” to you) or deal with sooner in Action. And I have just confirmed that over half of these are forwards.

Step two: embrace the thing I have been avoiding.

The trick to this Avoid, Embrace is not just to power through these but to put a plan in place for dealing with them in the future. My improvements are as follows:

  1. Add the “Time” element to Action items. ActiveInbox already deals with time labels, and this way I do not have to think about how long things take when I am ready to do them.
  2. Delete forwards. I hate to be such a jerk about them, but realizing that they inhabit over half my “Someday” folder was a wake-up call. I am filing them away to be polite, and that doesn’t do anything but stress me out later.
  3. Only set meaningful deadlines. This is true for my to-do list, as well: if I create a deadline, it must be meaningful, and then I will stick to it. “Someday” will be my “maybe I will do this action later” instead of me putting weird, unreasonable deadlines on Action items.

That is enough for now. I will report back on my results!

Avoid, Embrace: Not an epiphany.

The result of my first Avoid, Embrace exercise was not the epiphany I wanted. No great photos were taken. I am only posting this one because it is heavily post-processed.

I rushed through this, I admit. I didn’t take any great photos because I didn’t linger. But something good did happen: I didn’t feel bad while I was there. Initially I felt kind of awkward, hyper-aware of people glancing at my camera, but that isn’t neighborhood-specific; I always feel awkward with a big camera.

Not feeling bad is a good first step, I think.

Avoid, Embrace.

So Fancypants McGillicuddy here decides to start a New Project, not like she doesn’t have enough going on at the moment, but it is a New Project and she can hardly resist the lure of the New Project, so fresh and unspoiled by reality, and also she can hardly resist speaking in the third person, at least for a paragraph.

The New Project is this idea I have had rolling around in the brainmeats for a few weeks now. Health Month does a good job of keeping me accountable for three daily goals I think are important this month (or did last week when I set the goals, at least): taking a multivitamin, writing in my private journal, and getting thirty minutes of exercise. But there are things I want to track that are more ephemeral, yet still quite crucial to things like Health and Sanity.

If I waited to start this until I had it all figured out, I’d never start it. So here goes with the first day of the New Project. It is called Avoid, Embrace.

Step one: write about something I have been avoiding.

I avoid walking from my new job to SoMa because I travel through the geographical setting of most of my bad San Francisco memories. I try not to write about this here for so many reasons, but then all the reasons join up into a giant reason-robot and start shooting lasers at other things in my brain and I forget why I am trying not to write it because there are lots of explosions. Actually, I am pretty sure there is a more scientific explanation for what happens in there, but it is boring.

I walk through this neighborhood and I am reminded of a lot of ridiculous bullshit I put up with during that time period, and how bad I still feel about it, not because it happened but because at some basic level I decided that I deserved it. I accepted it. I started wearing it like a signature perfume, all that bullshit, and I thought it smelled pretty nice. And now I smell it and I am horrified. Again, not because it happened, but because there is something inside me that hates the rest of me enough to let that all be okay. For years.

So this is a pattern, and I am watching it very carefully to prevent it from repeating, but there are lots of memories in my head that remind me of this pattern. Those memories can be real assholes, I tell you what. And I again wonder why I hold so tightly to these memories when they are just husks, wrappers of whatever happened, the details of which I no longer retain.

Sometimes I go read a book or watch TV instead.

And sometimes I write it down, because maybe you’ve felt it too, this endless thought-turning, a rock tumbler with only sand inside.

Step two: embrace the thing I have been avoiding.

Of course, this is the hard part of the New Project. I am very good at avoiding and not as good as embracing. I want to say something bright and sparkly here like “say YES to LIFE! woohoo!” but that is not how I am feeling right now. I mean, I say yes to life and all that jazz, whatever that means. But it seems empty. Something specific is in order.

So my step two this week is to walk through that neighborhood of bad memories and take some photos. Not of anything in particular, just to see the place through new eyes and to stop blaming it for my negative feelings about my past. I will post the results here, and probably write a little too.

Do you want to join me in your own Avoid, Embrace this week? I look forward to reading your results if you do, so leave your notes or a link to your post in the comments.

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