Monday, February 27, 2017

If I Weren't So Stressed, I Wouldn't Be So Stressed

Do all chores, get everything prepped for the week, get to bed at a decent hour... and then can't sleep. It's going to be a long day, staying active enough to keep myself awake, but not doing anything I could injure myself with, and nursing a stiff neck in the meantime.

Thank you, stress, this totally helps. Argh.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Why Your Diet Doesn't Work

Cruising Pinterest tells me a lot about how people eat. In amongst the semi-homemade (start with a can of cream-of-whatever soup or a box of cake mix), ultra-hipster (organic, hand-picked quinoa seasoned with heirloom varieties of basil and rosemary, and cooked in duck fat), and alcohol-infused (breakfast mimosa, vodka-infused gummy bears, wine-drenched dinner, Bailey's mousse for dessert) recipes are the diet-specific meal ideas. Paleo this, low-carb that, whole-30 whatever... but there's a subset of the diet recipes that's telling: diet-survival recipes.

"How I survive my Paleo diet" reads one pin, "smoothies suck, try these clean-eating snacks/meals instead" proclaims another, "how to have a cheat day without undoing your diet" says another. This, right here, is the problem with diets. They're seen as a hardship, something to survive, something to suffer through until you hit your goal and then go back to whatever you were doing before.

Your diet fails because you think of it as temporary, and a chore.

Want to lose weight and keep it off? Easy: balanced meals made from simple ingredients, in sensible portions, along with moderate, consistent physical activity.* For the most part, it's about calories and portion control. You skip breakfast or grab it on the way to work, you sit at a desk all day, you eat two or three big meals (frequently take-out or convenience food), you have a drink or three with/after dinner, and maybe you go for a walk on the weekend. That is not a recipe for health.

Your stomach, unstretched, is about the size of your fist. That's an ideal portion size. It's about the size of a dollar-menu McDonald's hamburger. It's a quarter of a typical restaurant entree portion. It's what most people think of as an appetizer or a snack, and this is why obesity is an epidemic in this country.

Our convenience food (frozen meals, drive-through or take-out food, etc.) is loaded with unnecessary fat and salt, to the point where if one eats nothing but Stouffer's meals for a month, one can easily end up in the hospital with sodium poisoning (just ask my sister). Heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S., starts with too much salt and fat in the diet.

So try this. Every week, think about what you're going to be eating for the next seven days. Think about little things you can do to work convenience food out of your diet, and ways to control your portions. I love the two-cup Pyrex containers for my work lunches -- it's an excellent portion size, I can prep a week's worth of meals on Sunday evening so I can just grab it and go every morning, and the glass doesn't hold smells or degrade over time the way plastic containers do.

Cutting something that your body needs (carbs, fat, sugar) out of your diet entirely is a recipe for disaster. Your body needs fat to process vitamins. Your body needs carbs to give you energy. You need food that you enjoy eating, because denying yourself something that brings you pleasure, or forcing yourself to choke down something you hate is the easiest way to make your diet fail. So eat! Eat food you enjoy, but keep your portions to the size of your fist, and wait until you actually feel hungry before you eat. Cook food you like, and pay attention to how much fat and salt you're putting into it. Plan your meals in advance to limit how often you hit the drive-thru. Go for a walk after dinner, or put on some dance music and bounce around your living room for half an hour.

A diet shouldn't be temporary, and it shouldn't be a chore. You want lasting results, so you have to make lasting changes, but they don't have to be huge and you don't have to make them all at once. Think about what you eat and how you eat, every meal, every snack, every day, for a month. Make one or two small changes at a time. In a few months, it'll have become a habit and you won't have to think about it as much... and you'll see the difference in the mirror, in the way you feel, and in how your clothes fit.

Don't diet. Live mindfully.

*This works for most people. I do know a few who have complicating factors, extreme medical issues that make some part of the equation not work, but they are statistical outliers. You, reading this, are probably not one of them.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Like Night And Day

Today is how I wish every day could be at my current job. The boss with issues was away, so we had the boss with a sense of humor, and as a result I got to work each task I was assigned all the way through from start to finish, at a comfortable pace, in a way that didn't put my safety at risk, and boss, coworker, and I spent the last two hours of the shift cracking jokes and being silly while getting work done.

My best wisecrack of the day: when I start to creak more than the floorboards we're pulling up, it's time to call it a day.

I'm sore and exhausted, but at least I'm not also murderously frustrated, as I was yesterday, when the boss with the issues had his dander up and took it out on us. I wish he'd take days off more often.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Bulgur! For Breakfast!

This just in: bulgur may be my new favorite breakfast food.

I was on an overnight oats kick for a while, but if you under-hydrate them, the result is a giant, sticky glob that can't be immediately fixed, and over-hydrating results in an overly-soft slurry. They also need a lot of sweetening to be palatable. With bulgur, the wheat's natural nuttiness is a solid flavor in and of itself, the grain retains some body even at maximum hydration, I can mix in a little more milk to get the consistency I want, and it just needs a spoonful of jam to make it sweet enough for my taste. It's also a dense, filling meal, which I need in my high-calorie diet when I often have to go seven hours between breakfast and lunch.

I might just be hooked. Thank you, Pinterest.

(Base recipe: 2 parts bulgur, 3 parts liquid of choice [I use milk], refrigerate overnight, add milk to desired consistency in the morning, and stir in a spoonful of jam or apple butter or brown sugar and fruit or whatever you fancy to make it sweet.)

Monday, February 20, 2017

Ice Castles

On Saturday, my sister and I went up to see Ice Castles in Lincoln, New Hampshire. We'd both heard about the attraction and seen photos, but neither of us had been before. Between the fact that we're both avid photographers, it being Dad's birthday weekend (calling for an adventure and some very good food), and Dad's favorite restaurant being just down the road from Ice Castles, we decided that this was a good time to go see what the fuss was about.

A word to the wise: if you're going to go, plan to book your tickets online a week in advance, because they will likely be sold out at the gate if you just show up hoping for the best. We saw several parties turned away because they were hoping for standby tickets and there were none to be had.

The website warned us to dress warmly, leave our tripods at home, and wear shoes with good tread, all of which we did and were thankful to have had the advance warning. Next time we might go the extra step and bring ice grippers for our boots, because the surface was quite slick in places. What the website didn't say was that the space isn't quite as big as we expected, and it's quite crowded. We had planned to spend two or even three hours there around sunset to get both daytime and nighttime shots, but screeching children and the realization that getting good low-light shots would be more effort than it was worth meant that we called it quits after about an hour and drove up the Kank to catch the last of the sunset from one of the pull-offs up the mountain.

All in all, though, we had a good time and got some good shots. If we do it again next year, we'll get tickets for an earlier time slot, because the best shots came from the interplay of ice and light, and we were a little late in the day with our 3:30pm tickets to have as much time with that as we would have liked. We'd also hope for a colder day, because a few shots were very tricky to get without getting dripping water on our lenses. Click here for my photos, and I'm sure my sister will process and upload hers eventually, at which time I'll post a link.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Giving Thanks

This has been a very rough week for me. Work was brutal, moving snow has taken up a lot of time and energy lately, it's coming up on my father's birthday, my own birthday (not an occasion to celebrate) isn't too far out, I'm painfully broke, and my 95-year-old grandfather is in the hospital in Florida with an iffy prognosis. So with all of that weighing heavily on me, it seems like a good time to practice thankfulness.

I am thankful that I have a flexible job. Having money coming in, even if it's not really enough right now, is better than having nothing. Being able to ask for a change of assignment or to leave early without getting the third degree is helpful. Having a boss who appreciates my skills and does his best to make my shift go a little easier is nice.

I am thankful that I have a good relationship with my former boss. We enjoy doing site work together, so when he's doing something that requires an extra set of hands, he calls me. We had a great time taking out windows in a meetinghouse-turned-town-office the other day -- the work went smoothly, the conversation was easy, and I felt like a respected and valued colleague and friend.

I am thankful for snowpants and fleece-lined tights. I've had to hack the top two feet off the snow pile next to my driveway twice in the last week, and having the wardrobe to stay warm and dry while doing that has been wonderful.

I am thankful for 4-wheel drive. Coming home from doing window work the other day had me right in the thick of a snow storm that had tractor trailers, tow trucks, and even plows sliding off the road, and I made it home without anything more than a little fishtailing around difficult turns. I love my Jeep.

I am thankful for my cats. Kira and Maeve have been extra-attentive lately, likely sensing my emotional distress, and it's wonderful to have two purring balls of fluff to cuddle with after a long day.

I am thankful for my sister. I wasn't feeling well enough to shovel after a few inches of slush fell last month, and the result was an icy hill at the mouth of the driveway -- one I needed to switch into 4wd to get over. Sis showed up last weekend with implements of destruction and helped me get it into a more reasonable state, and then left me with those tools so I could continue to attack it as time and energy allowed. As of today it's very close to being gone, and as it's going to be in the 40s over the weekend, I should have it completely clear by Monday.

And right this minute, I am thankful for Aleve, which is the only thing that's going to keep me from screaming for the next two days. My body gets very angry when I don't use the eggs it goes to the trouble of making... but hey, I'm thankful for my body, too. Even if it is a vindictive prat sometimes.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


I may have a bit of an icicle problem.

Kinda looks like Cthulu was trying to cross into this plane of existence but forgot it was winter here. Or like we've been having so many short thaws in between long freezes that the icicles just keep growing. That seems more plausible.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


We were back to the 1820s house in Massachusetts today, and it was primarily a day of plaster-pulling for me. Some of that plaster was on ceilings, which meant using PPE (personal protective equipment) to protect myself from dust, both in my lungs and in my eyes. How sexy is this look, eh?

I also did some lath-pulling, exposing the "live" edge of all the lumber used to frame the interior walls. This is in one of the bedrooms:

And this is under the attic stairs:

Spending a bit of time working in a different room than last time meant a different bonus wallpaper remnant hidden under the moulding and drop ceiling. It's subtle, but kind of neat.

Tomorrow I'm off doing window stuff, and I don't know whether I'll have a chance to take pictures, but I have a feeling it'll be a walk in the park compared to today. And I won't come home covered in plaster dust!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Is It Bedtime Yet?

The trouble with getting a poor night's sleep, the alarm going off at 5am, a semi-stressful drive to work in less-than-ideal conditions, a cancelled work day because everyone else was having even worse issues, and then coming home to shovel the driveway, is that now I'm exhausted and want to sleep.

If I sleep now, even a nap, I won't sleep tonight, and the 5am alarm goes off tomorrow, too, with an even longer commute to a different job site.

Eight hours 'til bedtime. Just eight more hours...

Sunday, February 12, 2017

No Sense In Complaining About The Weather

My sister came up yesterday with weapons of ice destruction to help me attack a plow pile that had gotten out of hand over the last month. We kicked some serious butt and got it down to where people can drive over it without risking damage to their vehicles, which is good, because both my sister and my neighbor's sister need to be able to park in my driveway next weekend.

While we were attacking the snow and ice, one of the neighbors walked by -- the one who haaaates snow, hates living in Vermont, and seems to expect everyone else to share his opinions about weather. I make a point to be cheerful about the snow and the process of shifting it every time I see him, and he looks confused every time. I don't think he can wrap his brain around the possibility of someone finding something positive enough about shoveling to not constantly gripe about it. But hey, it keeps my muscles in shape, and I like snow a heck of a lot more than rain (snow, at least, you can move to somewhere more convenient if there's too much of it -- rain just destroys things if there's too much of it), so I'm not going to complain about having to shovel a few times a week for a few months out of the year.

I did move to Vermont on purpose, after all. Twice.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

T-Rex Arms and Predictable Insomnia

After a long day de-nailing and stacking Masonite, I am left with the distinct impression that whoever decided that 4'x8' was the perfect size for sheet stock never had to go through life in the body of a petite woman.

In loosely-related news, I need to remember that falling asleep in my armchair is a bad idea, because the twenty-minute bits of rest I get before my body starts screaming in pain and I shift positions is just enough to make my brain think I've slept, and bedtime becomes an exercise in frustration. I'm hoping a mug of hot chocolate will help.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Snow Day, Take 2

Forecast: 5-9" of snow over the course of the day.

My call-out message to my boss included the words, "uh, no." He wants to risk it, more power to him. Me, no.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

My Jeep Is Not A Figure Skater

The job site I was supposed to work at today is close to 55 miles away, and the route includes 2500 feet of elevation change, because the site is on the other side of the Green Mountains. Given that we had 4" of heavy, wet snow topped with an icy crust last night, I left a little early this morning.

By the 20-mile mark, and before the the steep hills started, I'd nearly gone off the road twice, once into the path of incoming traffic, and I didn't fancy testing traction at an 8% grade, so I turned around and came home. I left a voicemail and an email for my boss, and went out to shovel.

A few hours later, my boss called back. Turns out my coworker had the same experience, so the two bosses, who got on the road several hours after us grunts and thus had much less trouble with the commute, are working today, while the rest of us stay home.

I'm looking forward to finding a job in a consistent, nearby location, and with, dare I hope, paid time off, so that when it's obvious the weather's going to make the commute hazardous, I can call out without giving up a day's pay.

To Sleep, Perchance...

I spent most of the day unconscious because it's the most effective way of keeping myself safe when my brain is malfunctioning. The downside is that it throws off my sleep cycle, which is a dodgy prospect on work nights. I can't pull an all-nighter when I have three hours worth of driving to do around an 8-hour shift of manual labor with power tools. So at bedtime, I went to bed. I read for a while, talked to the cats, counted to a hundred and back, did breathing exercises, cried about everything that's stressing me, stared at the ceiling, and finally, after about five hours, I dozed off and started to dream.

Because my brain hates me, I dreamed that I had slept through the alarm and had to call my boss to tell him I'd be late, which upset him greatly because it meant the only person on site was the coworker who needs a lot of babysitting. This dream worried me so much that it woke me up, to find that I had a whole five minutes before the alarm would go off.

I need a less defective brain. Think Amazon carries those?

Monday, February 6, 2017

Are You Being Served?

I'm listening to Patti Page singing "Old Cape Cod," and one of the lines in the song is, "if you like the taste of a lobster stew served by a window with an ocean view..." to which my response is invariably, "windows have arms?"

I am both my father's daughter and incredibly sleep-deprived. It's a fun combination when it comes to grammatically questionable lyrics.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Pros and Cons

The best part of coming home after a nice dinner out is taking off the high heels and flopping in front of the telly to digest the delicious food. The worst part is realizing that your dinner companion drained all your energy, and the one thing you really want to do is curl up in the arms of a lover who isn't there.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Mmm, Brownies!

Chocolate helps just about anything.

Clever Girl

Our deconstruction job this week is a gymnasium built in 1965. We're running across lots of little odds and ends, some of which are junk, others are worth selling, and a few are just silly little things that aren't worth money but shouldn't be chucked in the dumpster, either. Yesterday, for example, I found a little rubber ball and decided to bring it home for my cats to play with. They loved it, chased it around for a bit, and then I tossed it into a big cardboard box just before I went up to bed, so they wouldn't be bouncing it off furniture all night.

I came down this morning to find the box empty. I've no idea where the ball is now, but I'm quite proud of whichever one of them got the ball out of the box. I just hope they don't decide to start rolling it down the stairs in the middle of the night.

Thursday, February 2, 2017


You know you have a dirty job when you come home from work and find sheetrock debris in your bra. If that doesn't seem farfetched, remember that most of the places I work in aren't heated, so I'm wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt, a short-sleeved t-shirt, a shearling-lined canvas vest, a Carhartt winter-weight jacket, and a scarf while I work. That makes it rather more difficult for almond-sized chunks of stuff to make it down to skin level, but they still manage.