Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Grading Our Summer List

I, reluctantly, have to admit that summer has come to a close.  It's definitely my favorite season and we maybe live our best lives in the summer months, fully becoming hermits the rest of the year (and being completely ok with that).  Maybe it just takes us 9 months to recover from the busyness of summer?  I'm going with that.

Many months ago I posted our Summer Fun List.  I know, such a blogger thing to do.  And we actually did most of the things on the list!  Some of them may have been things we would have done anyways (going to the lake...) but seeing them on the wall daily helped me stay on track for how we wanted our summer to be! 


Yes.  A lot.   Easy check-off!


Yes!  Wasn't the best summer for it because it felt like many of our lake trips were cold and/or windy, neither of which make for good kayaking conditions!  But we went out a few times!

TinCaps Game
Went to 3 in about 10 days! 

Bike Ride Downtown - CHECK (besides the below ones!)
For ice cream - on Father's Day!
For supper - on my birthday!
To the downtown library - did it once a month all summer!
Did them multiple times at the lake!

This was our special treat for Friday nights at home...we did it twice.  (Summer was busy.)

Drive-In with Luke
Twice - both were Despicable Me 3 (but other second movies).  

Kid Movie Series
Nope, no theaters around here had them!  But we took him to the drive-in twice soo...balances out.

Picnic Breakfast
Nope.  I kept meaning to...then it got chilly in the morning and we lost our chance.

Host BBQ
Yes!  Should have done more than once but we still had one!  Better than last summer (with zero).

Pool Day
Yes!  Went to my sister's local pool with her and her 6 kids.  At one point she took a few to the bathroom and I thought "I only have 5 kids to watch in the pool, this isn't so bad!" which I realize is a crazy thought.

Evening Zoo Trip
Did this a few times before our pass ran out mid-summer!  Our favorite time to go!

Summer Reading Program
Luke and I both did the one at our library and he did Half Price Books' as well!  

Pick Strawberries
Yes!  Picked at my longest friend's parent's farm! 

Pick Blueberries
Nope.  MAJOR fail given how much I love blueberries. 

Overall, I'd consider this a pretty solid win.  We had a busy summer but it was also a lot of fun with a lot of people.  I liked seeing our summer goals right in my face every day.  I already have a few (new) ideas for next summer!   Now maybe I should start planning our fall (or maybe...I should have done that 3 weeks ago...oops.) 

What are you doing for fall?  I need a little help!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Quick Lit - September

Once again that time where I write about all the books I've been reading.  And...it's been a lot lately.  I some cold lake trips and a lot of books I really wanted to get through and...I just read a lot.

Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy, welcome if you found me through there!  I'm very active on Goodreads and you can friend me over there!  (My sister accused me of checking it multiple times a day, which I might do.)

Only one other book post this month (apparently I've been doing a lot of reading but not a lot of writing about it!) and it was for a book I really enjoyed!


Now, onto everything else I've read!

The Address by Fiona Davis
This story was set in the Dakota apartment building on the Upper West Side of New York City.  Told both as the building was both finishing construction and another related timeline in the 1980s.  The split timeline, with the more current looking into the mystery of the older reminded me of a lot of Beatriz Williams' books (I know other authors use that format) and it would fit in well with some of her books.  I was more interested and invested in the earlier plot but overall an interesting and engaging read.  And don't let the mention of an insane asylum in the description deter you.  3.75 Stars

Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool
I read this because I so enjoyed Moon Over Manifest earlier this year and while I still liked that one better, this was a very enjoyable middle-grade read.  Told the story of two boys who go on an adventure, presumably to hunt a giant bear, over a break at their boarding school.  A lot of things happen besides hunting a bear.  Things tied up in ways I wasn't expecting and I think this would be a good discussion book for a class (I think, I'm no teacher).  Well done.  3.75 Stars

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin
This story seems fairly straight forward: a young congressional intern has an affair with the congressman.  It gets out.  She is slammed all over the place while the congressman continues to have a successful career.  She ends up moving, changing her name, and completely reinventing her life to get away from it all.  What's a little strange is that the story is told in 5 (I think) parts, in different formats.  One of them letters, one of them a choose your own adventure style (where, thankfully, you only one continuing option is given for each scenario which eliminates the problem I had with those books as a kid).   It was a very interesting look at what our culture does in situations like that.  3.25 Stars

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
Another World War II novel to add to the multitude lately.  This one taking part in the aftermath of that war and also during World War I when there was a young woman who ran a very successful spy network in Europe.  It was fascinating, and at times difficult, to read about what the war did and the effect it had on people but interesting!  I've really enjoyed reading about all the different ways women contributed to the war efforts and it's worth the sometimes painful reading to learn more about these extraordinary people.  This is based on a real spy network, really run by a women.  So interesting.  4 Stars

The Lost Girls: Three Friends. Four Continents. One Unconventional Detour Around the World by Jennifer Baggett, Holly Corbett, and Amanda Pressner
My biggest problem with this book: it didn't need to be 500 pages.  It was waaaaay too long.  BUT, I loved the adventure: three friends quit their stale lives in NYC to travel around the world together for a year.  They went to non-touristy places (no Western Europe here).  I love reading stories like this but their constant trying to wring a lesson out of each part and how it went on and on was a turn off.  I liked but didn't love it.  3 Stars

The Summer I Turned Pretty, It's Not Summer Without You, and We'll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han
I picked this series up after so enjoying her Lara Jean series (which is completely delightful YA) but this one just wasn't as good.  But I still read all three pretty quick.  So there is that...  About Belly (I know, I know) who has grown up summering with her brother, Mom, her Mom's college roommate, and roommate's two boys who just happen to be her age.  Obviously romance and feelings develop.  A wedding at 19 is being planned by book #3.  Some of it you just have to accept because...YA.  They did read like summer and that lovely, lazy feeling.  But I'd recommend Lara Jean over these, any day.  Overall: 3 Stars

Love and F1rst Sight by Josh Sundquist
Another YA.  About a boy born blind who is given the opportunity to have a life changing surgery - to see again.  Which he takes.  And changes everything.  It made me more sympathetic to not being able to see and how that impacts pretty much every part of your life.  It was different than most YA I've read with that element.  Good.  Interesting for understanding a disability better.  But not my favorite YA I've read recently (but I've read a lot this year).  3.5 Stars

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand
More YA.  A lot this month.  This was SUCH a strange book.   Takes place in Tudor England with some of Henry VIII's kids, it starts staying pretty true to history then takes a GIANT turn.  In this story, some people can turn into animals, sometimes at will, sometimes not.  There is a war brewing over people who like these animal-people and those that don't (based on some religious battles England actually had).  It was a strange, strange read.  Easy to read, but so strange.  3 Stars

Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny
This book made me laugh out loud more than once but also was a little depressing at times.  About a man, his 2nd wife, and their son.  Then his first wife re-enters the picture and befriends them.  It was about family dynamics and living in New York dynamics and observations about life.  It was maybe more literary than I normally read and wasn't something I was rushing to pick up but still enjoyed it when I did.  3 Stars

Sweetbriar Cottage by Denise Hunter
I've read almost all of Denise Hunter's books, really enjoying her Chapel Springs and Summer Harbor series.  They were Christian Fiction that wasn't stale or hitting you over the head with a lesson, felt like they were about real people.  This one though, it just didn't sit right with me.  A couple is married.  They think they get divorced.  Find out a few years (months?) later the papers weren't actually filed and SURPRISE they are still married.  Then they try to get divorced again and end up in a spring snowstorm, stranded on a mountain.  There were a lot plot devices that had me rolling my eyes.  I'll probably still give the next in the series a try but this one wasn't worth the read for me.  2.25 Stars

Love That Lasts: How We Discovered God's Better Way for Love, Dating, Marriage, and Sex by Jefferson and Alyssa Bethke
This is a marriage and relationship book from a young (late 20s? 99% sure they are younger than us) married couple.  I haven't read too many marriage books and this one did have a different Christian perspective but was also more their story.  You could probably learn something from any other relationship, either what to do or what not to do, but it's not like they were writing this after decades of experience which would have made a much different book.  Maybe more aimed at young married or engaged couples.  I did appreciate a different perspective though so it was worth the read.  3 Stars

The Sharper the Knife, the Less You Cry: Love, Laughter, and Tears at the World's Most Famous Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn 
Maybe my favorite book I read this month?  Or at least in this recap.  About a woman who got let go from her job and finally fulfills a lifelong dream to attend the Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris.  This convinced me that I'll never go there, as dreamy as living in Paris for months sounds.  Mainly, I would only eat about 5% of what she describes making because I might be a little picky.  BUT reading about it was so interesting.  I had previously read her Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good and Kitchen Counter Cooking School (I liked the latter better of those two) so I was a little familiar with her story but reading about life in Paris, based around food?  Yes.  I'm all in for that.  4 Stars

Whispers by Robin Jones Gunn 
This is continuing my slow reread of RJG's Glenbrooke series, which I read many times in my late teens.   They are dated (written in the mid-late 90s) and a little cheesy but such a comfort read for me.  These have been my phone books for the last few weeks and I can get a little caught up in them at times.  Also, this one takes place on Maui.  Ahhhhh...  3.25 Stars

Classic Style: Hand it Down, Dress it Up, Wear it Out by Kate Schelter
Here's what I remember about this book a month later: it had pretty pictures and inspired me to "shop" my closet better before buying new.  It was a quick read and had some nice lessons but nothing that really stuck with me.  BUT...if you like pretty pictures it's worth the 90 minutes it takes to flip through.  3.5 Stars 

Whew.  That was a lot of books.   What have YOU been reading?  What should I be reading next?? 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Time Tracking

A day has 24 hours.  A week has 168 hours.  How do you spend that time?

Hopefully you are sleeping 50ish hours of those.  If you work outside the home you probably have a pretty good idea of how many hours you spend there and commuting.  Then there is all the time spent on the mundane, necessary parts of life: eating, showering, dressing, making meals, doing the bare minimum of clean-up.  If you have kids you probably spend a decent chunk of your week with them.

168 hours is a lot of time but it can be pretty easy to get to the end of a week and not be sure where the time went.  I doubt I am alone in that feeling!

I know I work outside the house for 3 hours a week.

I sleep around 50 hours a week.

Workout for about 2 hours, run for another 4 hours.

That barely accounts for 1/3 of my week and doesn't cover where the bulk of my waking time goes: Luke, Matt, household chores, food related things, driving, etc.

So I started tracking my time.

I've been using the Toggl app since May to track the time I spend on certain activities and have slowing been adding what I track.

Naturally, I started with tracking my time spent reading.  Since I do a lot of that. (Average: over 9.5 hours a week).  Then I added in blogging (3:20 a week), Instagram (1:45/week), Facebook (1:05/week),and picture managing (tagging and photobooks - 1 hour/week).  Toggl sends a weekly e-mail with my totals in each category and I track those in a spreadsheet (naturally). 

If you noticed that these are mostly activities I do while Luke is asleep/in quiet time...you are correct.  BUT this often comes to 2-3 hours I am tracking every weekday which helps me feel like I am getting something "done" (because time on social media TOTALLY counts as getting things done...) with my ME time.  I know where the time is going.

As for tracking where my time goes when Luke is around...well...if you have a kid you can probably understand how difficult that would be.  While I would really like to know how much time I spend on household management type things, those are often SO broken up: 5 minutes of cleaning, a few minutes with Luke, 10 minutes cleaning, time with Luke, etc.  It's rare that, besides running, I get to do anything in large chunks of time when I'm also on Mom duty.

Also, it feels really weird to track how much time I spend "parenting" since that permeates so much of my waking hours.

There is the whole thing that you act better when you are being observed (or observing yourself) and that's definitely true.  Having the timer going keeps me more focused and less likely to refresh Feedly for the 20th time that day if I know my "reading" timer is going and I don't want to go through the hassle of pausing it and restarting (even though it would take just seconds).  Tracking my time has made me use it better which is always a positive in my book.

I've done full week time trackings before but have never done anything with the data which just makes it a pain with no benefit.  But this, I've slowly gotten in the habit of it and have learned things about where my time goes.  I spend more time reading and less time blogging than I thought.  When my social media numbers jump I know I need to watch those better.  It helps me feel like I get something out of my Luke-less time.

Maybe it's just appeals to the accountant part of me that used to account for all of my 8 working hours a day.  Or maybe I just like the reason for another spreadsheet.

But maybe, maybe, it's helping me use my time better which is something I appreciate the most.  Even more than another spreadsheet.

Have you ever tracked your time?  What surprised you the most?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

BBQ Chicken Burgers

Sometimes I write about a recipe after only making it once or twice.  Sometimes it's after making it for years.  This one is definitely the latter.

We made these BBQ chicken burgers for Luke's 1st birthday party (he's now 4) and they are one of our grilling staples in the summer.  It's a mash-up of burgers (easy to grill and eat) and grilled chicken (cheaper and healthier?)?  I've found them to be pretty easy to mix up and then send them out to the grill with Matt.

I keep thinking I should learn to grill.  Matt did teach me one summer.  It feels empowering to know how to do that.  But I don't like handling raw meat and realllllly don't like eating undercooked meat so my tendency would be to burn EVERYTHING just to ensure no pink and nobody really wants to eat things like that.  I've managed to burn bacon every time I've made it (all of twice) and now tell Matt it's his responsibility.  It saves us a lot of wasted bacon.  And probably grill meat too.  Since I do most of our meal prep and grocery shopping and menu planning and most the things that make sure we have food on the table, I don't really feel bad about delegating the actual grilling to Matt.  I get a slight break in the kitchen and we still get delicious food.

Back to these burgers, you can adjust these a little to your level of spicy.  We use store-bought BBQ sauce just to keep things easy, both in the burgers and on top.  We often add cheese, just like when grilling burgers.  They have a wonderful flavor and every single time we have them I'm glad I suffered through touching the raw chicken.  Give these a try if you are looking to change up your grilling menu!

Note: The first time I made these I bought a pound ground chicken at the store which costs as much as a 3lb bag of frozen chicken breasts at Aldi.  Then I wised up and started thawing frozen chicken and grinding them myself in the food processor.  Definitely the cheaper (and barely harder) option.

BBQ Chicken Burgers

yield: 4 burgers (easily multiples for more!)
-1 lb. ground chicken
-¼ cup cornmeal
-2 tsp brown sugar
-1 tsp dry mustard
-½ tsp kosher salt
-½ tsp paprika
-¼ tsp garlic powder
-pinch of cayenne pepper
-2 TB barbecue sauce, plus more for serving

-sliced cheese
-other burger toppings, as you wish

-Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix until well combined.  Form into 4 patties and refrigerate until ready to grill.

-(I'm going to assume you have some basic grill knowledge going forward...this is the part I delegate)
Oil the grill grates and place the patties on the grill.  Cook for 3-4 minutes and then flip.  Cook about another 3 minutes.  Top with cheese slices if you wish and continue cooking until the cheese is melted.  Serve!

source: modified from Pink Parsley Catering via Annie's Eats

Friday, September 8, 2017

Looking Back at August

August is over which means an end of summer to most people, except us.  We still have another lake trip planned and maybe a beach vacation before the year is over.  In fact, I JUST got out some of my summer decor items on August 31st because I am super timely like that.  Also, because I completely forgot until someone mentioned shells to Luke.  How I didn't realize this until 3 months into summer, I don't know.  But now we have shells and ceramic whales out and they will be out for awhile.  And I am fine with that.  I love the seasons but I always have the hardest time saying goodbye to summer!

That said, it was a MUCH calmer month after the whirlwind that (always) is July.  We were only away from home for 5 nights and just had a lot more time at home,during the week too.  August always feels like the Sunday of summer, a little more chill.  Here's some of what we were up to:

1) A lake trip where the high on Friday was a whole 60°.  So strange for August!  (I finished 3 books...)
2) Daisies in the garden!
3) Helping Matt get the top beam of Luke's swingset in place!  I was mainly counterweight but I still felt super helpful.
4) A zoo trip with cousins, always have to stop at the lemurs.
5) A finished swingset!  After the poles sat in our yard for 3 months, the actual install was pretty quick (helps when we're actually home a few weekends.)
6) Golden hour jet skiing at the lake.  Will always be my favorite.
7) Luke's first time solo tubing!  He said he liked it but also wanted back on the jet ski pretty quick.
8) Reading at the beach while Luke plays in the water.  Win for both of us! (Especially when the water is too cold for me to want to get in!)
9) Lake sunset.  Never get tired of these.
10) Eclipse!  We were in 80% (ish) totality and I got kids up from quiet time just to see it.  They thought it looked like the moon, not too impressive when you are 3 and 4 apparently...
11) Luke and his cousin we babysit once a week.  Swinging (and getting out of quiet time) was more fun than eclipse watching.
12) Wet morning glories, staying alive with very little work from me.
13) Luke likes to think he's SO TIRED after I push him in the stroller for 5.5 miles.  Sometimes I can convince him to push the stroller back though and my body appreciates it.
14) Spiderman stealing some fresh cookies.
15) Trying to get in some reading time by giving Luke my phone to take pictures.  I ended up with 800 new ones, mostly of Lemur.  And this one of me.
16) I just thought my new running shoes looked cool on the rug.  They are bright.
Books finished: 20 for the month, 138 for the year.  I realize that's a little insane.
Things sewn: I sewed a new style of clutch!  It was fun to get back into it and I have plans for more projects in the fall!
Miles ran: 105.94.  I expect to top that this month and then NEVER AGAIN (until I train for another half marathon...which will probably happen some year).
Currently watching:  Matt and I are still working through The Office which I've really been enjoying.  On season 6 right now.  I also started season 2 of Smash, which I've watched before and really like.  And, of course, American Ninja Warrior which is the best of summer tv.
Most read post this month: Quick Lit  - August followed, again, by No Churn Brownie Caramel Ice Cream which was back in July but still getting a lot of hits!
Luke's current favorite song: The "Thank You Song" aka "You're Welcome" from Moana.  I almost have it memorized.

Can you believe it's already September???  Once I get over summer being done, I'll be pretty excited about fall!