Thursday, December 27, 2012

Lining Up the Ducks

When we got engaged, K's mother was full of sage advice for us. "Only fight about the things that matter," she admonished.  When we started fighting a few months ago, one of our friends had some more prosaic advice.  "Don't break up until after New Year's," he instructed me. "There's too much going on right now for you to make big decisions with a clear head."  They were both right.

It was our first really big fight, long-distance over the course of the last two months-- related to stress of his last semester and my new job and both of us feeling like the other had excluded us from their lives (and we weren't wrong, but it wasn't related to a lack of caring about each other as much as it was related to a lack of communication and generally being overwhelmed by the major life changes).

The resolution, in short form, was simple: I graduated in May, he graduated a few weeks ago in December, we've both secured jobs (that are even less than an hour apart from one another!), and we're buying a house. We've been busy, building our life together and troubleshooting the issues.

We can do this, and when we fight, we will take the opportunity to grow.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

New Jobsville: Week One

I've been in New Jobsville a week now. It's been an adventure-- last weekend I was in Boston with my fraternity, so I had a healthy dose of travel to get here at ten o'clock on the night before my job started. Compounding the nature of adventure, I'm staying with my cousin while I find a permanent place to live.

I love the job so far-- it seems like I'll be doing real, meaningful things as soon as I can wrap my head around how things work. I think I'm doing well getting up to speed, but sadly no knowledge transfer is instantaneous (yet. Someone should get on inventing that).  Even though I caught a nasty cold on Thursday that carried into Friday (and who gets sick on their first week of work?), I was able to keep (mostly) up by the end of the week.

K and I went house-hunting on Tuesday. We found a possible place-- hardwood floors and just enough space!-- and now I need to get financing out of a bank. On the one hand, I've got six years of paying all my bills on time; on the other, I haven't had too many bills to pay (credit card, semesterly rent, some utilities when I was in MO). Worst of all, I just started a new job, and I hear that banks like to see you in a job for a year before they give you a mortgage.

I really don't want to rent an apartment here for a year, not after I've seen the offerings available. All the available apartments seem to have layouts that feel more cramped than the square footage suggests, with small rooms and odd, constricted doorways and hallways. Rent often includes non-refundable deposits and exceeds mortgage payments* for a fraction of the quality of life. Even the supposedly pet-friendly complexes frown when I mention Kieron's cat.

We're house people, K and I. We like making our space our own, and we'd rather fix something ourselves than call a landlord. We want the space to entertain. So, I'm working on it-- trying to find time to get to a bank or meet with a mortgage broker.

People who have bought houses-- how do you get to places with limited hours (banks, the post office) when you're working a full-time job? What are your stories of buying your first house-- and what advice would you give to someone buying their first house?
*Based on a 30-year mortgage and the houses K and I have viewed. If (when, hopefully) K and I buy a house, we hope to have a shorter mortgage. Yes, the payments are higher in the short term, but they are still within my budget, still comparable to rent, and they produce a better financial picture in almost any scenario I have projected.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Completely Natural Reaction to Good Things Happening

Getting a job froze me. Figuratively, of course, but I got the offer and promptly shut down.  (Well, not quite promptly. First, I negotiated salary, which was even more bogglingly terrifying, even though I succeeded from my point of view.) Instead of doing the nice, productive things I'd been doing all summer, like exercising and eating healthy food and generally doing the sorts of things that human beings do, I buried myself under a blanket and read the equivalent of 20 books in miscellaneous fiction.

I'm moving a couple hours away from my parents' house and starting a new job. This shouldn't be a big deal. I mean, I've moved twenty hours away for internships when I'd never had a "real" job before, right? It never bothered me like this.

But I went to visit apartments, and I hated all of them. Hated-- as in, I could not wait to leave. Plus, they seemed like a lot of money for not a lot of living space, and a lot of them had tons of fees and distressingly pushy landlords. (Non-refundable security deposit? I need to fill out this rental application right now, or else I'll need to get it notarized or make the hours-long drive back to the rental office and pay a $50 application fee for an apartment that may not even be available? No, thanks.)

So, I spent some quality time with rent-vs.-buy calculators like this one and discovered that renting makes absolutely no sense for us whatsoever. We can get more living space in for less money if we buy. Plus, we love the idea of owning.  Owning a house has been my dream since I was six or so.  When other girls were dreaming about their wedding, I was drawing floor plans and designing gardens. More happy for less money doesn't come up often, so we're going for it.

K and I spent last night browsing house listings online. Today, I ignored the butterflies in my stomach and called a real estate agent and a bank. Phrases like "well, this will be good when we have children" have entered my discussion on a regular basis. 

I feel like this is the stuff of fantasies.  My fantasies, even, where I have a kid and a partner and a space of my own where I can cook dinner, paint the walls, and plant day lilies. I want this: this is the reason I went to the bank on my eighteenth birthday for a credit card to begin building my credit history, this is the reason I saved ruthlessly during my internships and paid off my college debt. I should feel happy, right?

Instead, Big Life Changes mode has gone into overdrive.  Not only am I starting a new job, I'm also going to sign a mortgage, buy a house, and (eventually) get married to someone who will have to live in that house with me. It terrifies me. I'm dragging myself through every step, giving myself pep talks before every phone call.  I'm starting to bundle my belongings into suitcases, but a lot of them, I'm leaving where they are-- I'll have to stay with family while I'm house-hunting, because I had hoped to have an apartment and I don't. I can live out of a suitcase for a month-- I've done it before, when I studied abroad-- but it's still scary.

No one warned me that getting everything I've dreamed about and worked for would come with a side of nerves. Now, the best I can do is to power through it, knowing that I'll be glad I did once the massive changes are over.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Starting a Career as "We" (not "I")

If you had asked me three years ago what I considered the most important part of my life, I would have unhesitatingly told you that I cared more about establishing a career than any other life goals.  I had just graduated from community college, where few of my local friends had goals similar to mine.

K and I are getting married largely because he wants to, and I don't not want to get married enough to argue. I love him and want him to be happy, and getting married makes him happy.  That said, the institution of marriage makes me uncomfortable: it involves the community in what I consider a private relationship and opens healthy relations to public scrutiny.  Plus, it traditionally involves the commingling of assets, and I haven't successfully established myself as an individual with individual assets.*

This terrifies me.  Another smart person from the internet writes: "I often think that as a feminist, I should be self-driven, self-motivated, and self-inspired when it comes to my career." This sums up my feelings precisely: I want to establish myself individually before I commit to establishing myself as part of a marriage.  K keeps offering to give me money if I need it, but this makes me really uncomfortable. I'm supposed to have my own money: we're not technically married yet.

The problem? I want to marry K, and I want to marry him now. Yesterday, even.  Every time we see each other, we're tempted to call up our friend, who's an officiant, and just get the paperwork done.

See, we're already half-married for most practical purposes: we've already effectively made a life-long commitment to each other. Breaking our engagement now might not be as legally tricky as a divorce, but it would have a huge impact on our community. We've already integrated into each other's family. We have more friends as a couple than we have as individuals.** We'd have to figure out how to divvy up the kitchen stuff and the bedding and even a little bit of furniture.

So, I can't look for a job without considering him. I can't take just any offer that sounds like a good fit for me: I need to wonder if he'll be able to find a job, too. I need to consider if the job will force me to relocate often.  I need to figure out how far we can each commute and how long we're willing to live apart (not long: we've already done it quite a bit, and we don't like it very much).  On the flip side of this, though, he's looking for a job, too, and only one of us needs to find work before both of us can move and begin establishing our family. I need to remember that I'm not in this alone, even if it feels that way while he's finishing his last semester. It's only a few months until he graduates.

Starting a career as a "we" makes the job search harder.  Having K is worth it.

*To be fair, K hasn't established himself, either.
**We do each have our own friends, and we're not isolating each other or anything creepy like that. It's just a side effect of our relationship: we meet and grow to like each other's friends.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Its Courage Had Seen It Through

I'm working on a craft project and actually making pretty good progress, which thrills me because I haven't been making good progress on very much lately. I was going to blog about it, but while I was in the basement looking for some scrap cardboard, I found our Game Boy Color, which I had thought was lost to the ages.
a green game boy color and four games: Tetris, Pokemon Gold, Pokemon Crystal, and Pokemon Red
I'm really glad I saved those games.
So now I have a crafts project that's going well and some Pokémon to catch. I guess I will have to bump the real blog post to tomorrow.

Catch you all then!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Other People On The Internet Are Smart

I have found some posts around the internet related to the things I am trying to do. I could try to summarize and give my own take on each of these, but instead, I will round up some links.

I am not the only one trying to balance a fiancé and a job hunt. Fortunately, if it doesn't work out in either the short or long terms, I don't have to feel crushed because I'm not "successful" (thought I am terrified of being unable to contribute to the household. I always dreamed I would have a nice permanent partner interested in doing the bulk of the home stuff, and while K is game for that, he may be more employable than I am, at least over the short term, and we will have to make it work however we can).

How to build a starter wardrobe for $150. Or: it's OK that everything I own comes from the Target clearance rack (except for my bras) while I'm establishing myself professionally. I can replace things later, once I actually have money. Apparently, jackets are magical things, which is brilliant because I love the concept of easy layering.

Apparently following a Tumblr that admonishes me to make my bed every morning causes me actually make my bed every morning. I've set alarms to get myself to do things, but apparently if an actual person does the telling, it motivates me, even if the person is a random stranger from the internet. Now, I have extra magical space. Brilliant.

This is seriously creepy. I can't even fathom what the school that wants to "[reserve] the right to require any female student to take a pregnancy test to confirm whether or not the suspected student is in fact pregnant" thinks it can accomplish through this pointless invasion of privacy, and I'm pretty sure I don't want to know, either. Yuck.

EDIT TO ADD:  And this, which helps me articulate that, even though I have various behaviors that our culture has assigned a gender to, I still don't like assigning a gender to myself.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Pinterest Made Me Make Cookies

I may need someone to ban me from Pinterest.

You see, when a friend persuaded me to join, I didn't think it could cause any harm.  What is the worst that could happen? I thought rhetorically. I pin a bunch of neat ideas and never follow up on them?

Apparently, the worst that can happen is that I find a neat idea and then and entire evening disappears as I experiment with it.

Here is what I did:
pictures of various stages of making marshmallow fondant. Picture One: unbaked cookie dough. Picture Two: partially-melted marshmallows. Picture Three: melted mixed marshmallows. Picture Four: marshmallows with icing sugar added. Picture Five: kneaded marshmallow-sugar concoction with fingerprints. Picture Six: cutouts of rolled-out marshmallow fondant. Picture Seven: baked cookies.  Picture Eight: greek symbols on cookies. Picture Nine: Leftover fondant wrapped in cling wrap.

The finished cookies looked like this:

Cookies decorated with mathematical and greek symbols, including phi, psi, sigma, pi, tau, h-bar, delta, zeta, an integral sign and an infinity sign.
Sideways, because I am lazy.
picture of cookies wrapped on an index card that reads "I love you". The cookies spell out M-O-M.
My mom was feeling unappreciated. I fixed it with cookies.
WARNING: I gained three pounds from eating these cookies.  (Whoops.)  Proceed with caution.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Wish List for Job Postings

Recently, I've found out that "entry level" jobs can require more than three years of relevant experience. This baffles me, so I hopped on the Internet to learn more. I follow the Ask A Manager blog in an attempt to keep a sense of perspective and learn more about professional conduct, and in this post, Ms. Green recommends a book called Why Good People Can't Get Jobs by Peter Cappelli. The Kindle version was under six dollars, so I decided to pick it up. It made me feel a great deal better about my job search and helped me articulate some things that hurt both employers and candidates.

Based on this and some of my more recent job-search failures, I have developed a wish list for employers-- stuff that would make my life easier and might help out HR at the companies to which I've applied, too.
  1. If you're going to kick out my resume based on a hard-coded binary decision, do so before I spend 45 minutes filling out your application.

    Ms. Green suggests that Dr. Cappelli overstates how often this happens, but I know that it's happened to me at least once after filling out a particularly odious application. Most vexing, and super easy to fix.

    Look, you can even copy and paste the following phrase: "We will not consider applicants without ___________."  Just fill in the blank, and I will automatically think better of your company (unless the requirement is ridiculous).
  2. When you post "entry level" jobs or positions "for new graduates", make sure you clarify how much experience you require.

    I keep running into jobs "for new graduates" that require more than three years of experience. I realize there are a few people out there who worked between high school and college in professional roles and a few more who have gone back to school to change careers, but the pool of people in this boat can't be THAT big. Still, over the past week, I have started applying to at least three different "entry-level" jobs that list minimum experience levels ranging from three to seven years before cottoning on and either (a) abandoning application (for the one that required 5-10 years) or (b) applying anyway (for the one that specified a 3-year minimum).
  3. The more searchable you make the job listings, the better I can determine which positions fit me well.

    Right now, as a recent graduate, I don't really live anywhere and I'm somewhat open to relocation. While "four hours away from anywhere else" doesn't work for me*, there are a lot of places I will move to at my own expense. I'm more interested in finding a position where I can make an impact and build value-- but I can't search positions based on skills and qualifications.
  4. Similarly, the more detail you include in a job listing, the more productively everyone can use time.

    If you're looking for a mechanical engineer whose core responsibilities will be determining price and dimensions for gas furnaces, please say so-- I won't apply, mistakenly thinking that you're looking for a mathematician with some business sense, and you won't waste your time interviewing me. Meanwhile, bonus points to employers who list core requirements and then rank nice-to-have qualifications based on how important they find them.
  5. Don't store passwords in plaintext.

    Just don't.
If anyone has any good workarounds for any of these, I'd love to hear them.
*Where will K find a job if you are the only employer in a two-hour radius? Alternately, will you pay me enough to make up for his lost income?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Profligate Layabout

My fiancé makes me feel better when I don't want to do the things I know I have to do. It's a small thing, but I appreciate it (and the rest of him, of course).
ME: Waaahhh. I don't wanna cut up this chicken. I wanna lie in bed with the fan blowing on me and eat a Klondike bar while I read my book.
K: I can't remember the last time I had a Klondike bar.
ME: That was supposed to be a request for you to tell me to get up off my duff and go do something useful instead of being a profligate layabout.
K: Oh. Go do something useful. And bring your duff over here so I can snuggle it.
ME: I am not sure that will help with the whole "profligate layabout" issue.
K: I will be the judge of that. <3
After this exchange, I cut up the chicken, marinaded it, and wrote out some baking instructions. Then, I ate a Klondike bar (double chocolate, if you are curious) and read my book until I took my nap.

After my nap, I had plenty of time to work on job applications to ward off any further profligate layabout tendencies that might have been lurking about.  I consider the exchange a success.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Can I Dress For the Job I Want?

Some links I've found while trying to figure out if my appearance is preventing me from getting a job.

This post suggests setting aside at least $1000 to build a professional wardrobe from scratch. I'm grateful that there are posts out there that give fashion-clueless folks like me hints about how to go about presenting a professional appearance.

Meanwhile, this post neatly sums up a large part of my frustration when it says, "Women routinely have to spend more money, and more time, to make ourselves visually presentable and fit society’s basic expectations of grooming… and that’s more true the higher up you get in status and income." 

I want to play by the rules, but I haven't yet worked out how I can feasibly do so. Sometimes, it seems like the prerequisite to getting a job that pays money is to already have money.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Health, Identity, and Adulthood

I find myself posting recipes for stuff I've cooked. I also post regularly about my thoughts on sleep, as I'm trying out biphasic sleep.  I do this in part because I hope it's interesting or helpful, but under that, I do these things because I'm trying to exert control over my own life.

See, I can't force employers to post job openings, interview me, or give me a job. I can't lower the cost of living so that I can support a family on less money. I can't buy much of anything, as I'm hoarding the money I have so that I can afford to move to the location of job.

However, I can still try to create value. I can cook, I can craft, I can clean, and I can write*. I can work to improve myself by exercising and eating better.  I can hack my sleep schedule so that I have time to do all of these things and still work on applying for jobs.

Perhaps it's all a carefully-constructed method of distracting myself from feeling worthless because no one has found me worth paying (yet).**  If so, it's a relatively productive one. I have plenty of unhealthy coping mechanisms for this, so encouraging the healthy ones definitely appeals to me.

I think it's also part of my attempt to build an adult identity for myself, though. Now that I have more opportunity to make my own decisions about how I will live my life as an adult, I want to put some conscious thought into what I want to do with my life, in terms of both my career and personal life.

Over the past few weeks, I've been asking myself questions like these:
  • Am I willing to reduce my consumption of certain foods and increase my activity level to lose weight?
    (yes, but I'm not giving up cheese or dessert entirely, no matter what the literature says about dairy and sugar. I'd rather exercise more than feel hungry, but staying sedentary is not an option: I want children, and I need to be fit before I can have them.)
  • Am I willing to relocate to get a job? How far?
    (yes, but I want to be able to get home for Christmas, and it needs to be close enough to civilization so that K can find a job, too)
  • What do I like to do in my spare time?
    (it took me a while to remember that, hey, I actually really do still like crafting! because I had no free time during college: I wanted to learn as much as I could because I'd already paid outrageous sums. It feels really good to create things again.)
So, even if some of the things I do and write about don't relate to becoming an adult on the surface, I'm still in the process of building my identity, and the new activities are part of the new identity.

I'm sure it will all change again soon enough.
*An aside: it's a little bit irritating how this list contains skills that can be considered "women's work" (except, possibly, for the writing). When I was young, no one taught me how to fix cars or program computers or build things with power tools. Instead, my parents shipped me off to innumerable summer camps where I did lots of crafts, most usually in a class full of girls. I had fun, but did not learn much in the way of marketable skills.

**To me, this seems like a fair metric. When something is valuable, you pay for it in one way or another. No one seems to want to pay me enough money for me to survive (yet), so I am not (yet) worth much to anyone other than my parents.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Emotional Sleeping vs. Emotional Eating

I have a couple of unhealthy coping mechanisms. For example, I'm prone to emotional eating (along with a lot of people).  Similarly, when I feel upset and don't have a lot to do, I sleep for hours.  I don't know how common this is: people don't talk about their sleep patterns the same way they talk about their diets.

According to the CDC, adults need seven to nine hours of sleep. It goes on to provide troubleshooting for falling asleep, but never challenges the assumption that the sleep should happen in a single block at night. (Woe to the poor souls doing third-shift work, apparently.) There's no discussion of what sleep patterns work better, just adherence to "normal" sleep and advice for insomnia.

Perhaps this stems from a lack of knowledge about sleep. We know that light, stimulants, and physical exertion can play roles, but the roles these things play vary wildly from person to person. There are no sleep hygiene plans, no discussion about what sleep components best support healthy sleep, and no discussions about what sleep styles work for us. We don't even really know why we sleep-- we just know that it's miserable to go without it.

We know lots of things about the inputs to the nutrition process: macronutrients, fiber, vitamins and minerals, level of processing, and so forth. We know that a weight loss program should involve burning more calories than consumed and, similarly, that a weight gain program involves consuming more calories than burned.  We know that some foods feel more "filling" than others.

Everyone has an opinion to share about food. For example, my brother will talk for hours about the benefits of his diet, and I tease him mercilessly about how various foods I find particularly delicious will, in his words, "kill him".*  In another case, my mother got into a heated argument with a woman at a church dinner about the merits of vegan diets and the acceptability of honey.  Still, with religion, sex, and politics off the table and so much social activity centered around mealtimes, food commonly enters discussions.

I've worked in two predominately-female workplaces, a preschool for developmentally-challenged three- and four-year-olds and a customer service department in a large company.  In these settings, food played an even larger role in discussion. We traded recipes and diet tips regularly. In some ways, I find it irksome that I regularly trade the conversations I'd like to have about rapid prototyping  and identity security for bland ones about buffalo chicken wing dip and pepper plants, but mostly, I like talking about food.  It provides a platform of commonality: I, too, cook and care about nutrition. Plus, as the experts can't agree on a set of recommendations, there's room for endless discussion: if at a loss for conversation, I can almost always safely discuss nutrition.

Maybe this leads us, as a society, to have a healthy dialogue about food. Whether or not we actually follow any healthy eating guidelines at all, we have a good idea of what constitutes health foods, and we usually respect other people's food choices.

Meanwhile, we don't have a very good dialogue about sleep. Even when sleeping monophasically, friends and family would interrupt my sleep rhythm-- "it's past my bedtime" rarely excuses me from a social obligation. Work and sleep schedules don't take sleep schedules into account: if you have to wake up early to get to a meeting or work late to finish a project, no one cares that it may cause sleep deprivation. It's often acceptable to bring a small snack, but it's almost never acceptable to bring a pillow and grab a quick nap.

Perhaps this further impedes discussion of how to handle emotional sleeping: sleeping that's unhealthy. If we can't discuss healthy sleep, how can we distinguish it from unhealthy sleep? In particular, if we consider sleep some sort of optional extra that only the lazy indulge in, how can we keep ourselves healthy and productive?
*I consider poking fun at my younger sibling my sworn duty as an older sibling.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Spinach Sponge

Most store-bought sliced bread doesn't do a lot for me.  I can't eat it alone: the texture leaves me wishing I had something to chew, the flavor bores me, and it tends to include sugars I would rather get from eating fresh, whole fruit. I still eat it, primarily as a vehicle for other food, but I wanted to improve this solution.

I started looking up homemade bread recipes with the idea that I could make a bread over the weekend and use it during the week.  I decided to add spinach as well because I'm trying to add more vegetables to my diet.

I came up with something that hits most of the nutrition goals, some of the flavor goals, and completely lacks visual appeal. I started with this recipe for low-carb bread and made some modifications.

  • 1 cup flax seed meal
  • 1 cup oatmeal flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 3/4 cups egg whites
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 10-ounce package of frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • Spices to taste. I used, per the suggestion, onion powder, basil, and rosemary. I also used some salt.
bowl full of ingredients and spinach
Mixing in the spinach.
I mixed the dry ingredients together, followed by the wet ingredients, a bit a a time. Then, I mixed in the spinach and baked at 350°F for 25 minutes in a greased 9x13 pan.  It made 12 servings.

spinach sponge in 9x13 pan
When I brought one in to work, a co-worker wanted to know why I was eating a sponge.
You can pick up and eat the squares like a brownie, but they aren't stiff enough to use as a bread. The texture makes it clear that it contains whole grains and spinach, and it tastes overwhelmingly of rosemary (oops). Still, they're easy to transport and they contain a nice balance of healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and protein. 

I definitely like the concept, but they could use some improvement.  I meant to put in garlic, but I forgot, and I think it would have improved the flavor. I put in salt, and I shouldn't have: they came out a little too salty.   Serves me right for not researching the flavor of flax seed meal better, I suppose. I'd also like to try replacing the water with crushed tomatoes or tomato paste to create a lasagna-inspired flavor.

For a variation that might adhere better to the original purpose, I might cut the baking powder in half and divide the batter between two 9x13 pans to try for a more cracker-like baked good.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Biphasic Sleep: Day 29

Just a quick update after doing some thinking about sleep today.

  1. Staying up until 3:00AM on a work night still feels like irresponsible behavior.

    Even when I know I'll be able to get up on time and function at work with my 3:00 bedtime, around midnight, I start looking at the clock and thinking: I should start heading to bed soon. Of course, when I think that, I remember that I actually have another two or three hours until I need to start thinking about heading to bed, so I go and do things I want or need to do with the faint feeling I'm breaking the rules.

    Actually, I may be breaking the rules, if one considers the usual sleep dictates part of the rules.  If so, the rules have stopped making sense for me, and I don't mind breaking them (as I'm not hurting anyone, either).
  2. Many monophasic sleepers experience rough nights of sleep, too.

    Having a rough morning once in a while doesn't mean that my biphasic sleep experiment has failed, it just means that I had trouble sleeping or that an unexpected interruption has interfered with my sleep. For example, yesterday, I needed to get up at 6:00 to go to an event starting at 7:00*, so I moved my nap half an hour earlier. I had a terrible time staying asleep because I was excited about the event and nervous about waking up on time.  As I get more and more adapted to the routine,

    As another example of sleep impacts that cross sleep-pattern lines, K was ready to blame his persistent sleepiness on the biphasic sleep-- until he realized that his sleepiness correlated with the days he took allergy medicine!  He stopped taking it and felt better the next day.
  3. I don't know what I would do without the extra two hours in my day anymore.

    I feel like I'm getting so much more done. In part, this stems from having a part-time job with regular hours, but when I get home, I have time for job hunting, blogging, cooking experimental recipes, hanging out with friends online, playing video games, working on projects and exercising, and I don't have to resort to strict time management strategies to do it.  I just have to go to bed when I've scheduled my naps.

    I attribute part of this sensation of suddenly having time to the added structure as well as the extra hours.  Sleeping monphasically, I had an energy lull around the time I made into nap time, so I "lost" a block of time I never found particularly productive and traded it for time slots that I'm finding very useful.  In particular, the midnight-to-three pre-sleep period works well for writing and cooking, and I can take a walk with my mom or bicycle to the store as soon as I wake up at 6:30PM, activities that work well for me during those time periods.

    I don't think I could cram all the stuff I've been doing for the past week into a monophasic sleep schedule.
I gave a return to monophasic sleeping some thought today, but I think that even on a day where I feel sleepier, I wouldn't trade the extra productivity for a reduction in (a) weirdness and (b) occasional sleepy days. After all, monophasic sleepers have sleepy days, too.

*Yes, I know I'm still probably in an adjustment phase, but we picked biphasic sleep because it's resilient to this kind of thing.  I guess I'm a bad example of good adjustment technique, but if I end up at a point where I never feel sleepy, it will reflect well on the sleep schedule as a whole.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Purpose of Affirmations

About a month ago, I read an article about how written affirmations can help you achieve your fitness goals.  I figured, hey, it can't hurt, right? So I took five minutes and scribbled some things down, stuff like "I weigh 150 pounds" and "I have the energy to accomplish everything I want to do every day".

I taped it to the wall, so I glance at it every day. Theoretically, it works best if you recite them out loud to yourself in the mirror, but that feels too hokey to me.  I haven't gained any weight since (though the scale fluctuates too much for me to positively state that I've lost weight. The wedding road trip didn't help, either), so I know my no-harm judgement was correct.

Well, I figured out how to use them properly when I walked into a grocery store hungry after a Zumba class. Grocery shopping while hungry never works out well, and the first temptation appeared as soon as I walked through the door.

"Buy one box of chocolate chip cookies, get two free!" said a sign next to a display.  For this particular brand, two cookies are 140 calories, and there are approximately 14 servings per box. That adds up to 1,960 calories per box, which would be less of a problem if it weren't so easy to accidentally eat all the cookies once you open the box.  You can eat a cookie in about a bite and a half, so they just kind of disappear. They're soft, yummy, and the only store-bought cookie I want to eat-- and I shouldn't eat them, either.

"I weigh 150 pounds," I told the display.  "I can do a split on both sides. I have lots of energy."

The display looked at me, disbelieving: I weigh quite a bit more than 150 pounds at the moment.

"I weigh 150 pounds," I told the display again, more emphatically. Then, I walked away from the cookies and purchased egg whites, spinach, and unsweetened cocoa powder, all on my list.* I did not purchase any cookies, chips, or fish-shaped crackers.

I guess the affirmations work-- for some things-- after all.

*After which I went home and ate a healthy dinner, thereby preventing further hunger-inspired conversations with inanimate objects, at least for the foreseeable future.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Unemployed, Two Months Out of School

Note: The dialogue in this post is not verbatim. For one thing, my memory isn't word-perfect. For another, it would delight me if people actually read this, and I like to think that my edited version of the conversation, which catches the key points, entertains better than a transcript version.

That could have gone better.

Today, I had my first interview since I graduated.  I took a few weeks off from job-hunting after graduation, as I was in the middle of travel and a move, and I had some difficulty ensuring that my body, a reliable method of real-time communication, and my computer would all be in the same place at a scheduled time. Once I finished moving and could guarantee my presence at a telephone or in-person interview, I started applying again. 

Finally, I thought, today marks the beginning of the next phase of my job search. I felt pretty optimistic right up until the phone rang.  Then, the nerves hit.

First, the interviewer expressed surprise when I clarified that my experience has been all part-time or short-term and that my title when I work at the preschool is "Teacher's Aide", not "Teacher".  I had thought that the dates on my resume made it clear that the work experience I've gained has been during periods of higher education.

"You've graduated now, right? What have you been doing since?"

"Mostly, I've been looking for a job," I said. 

"Is that it?" she asked.

"I'm also back working part-time and short-term at the preschool to keep myself busy while staying able to focus on my career development."

"How are you finding the job market?" the interviewer asked.

"It's a little bit rough," I told her, "but I was getting a pretty good response during my finals week, even though there was a lull in June."

When asked which engineering area I'd studied, I explained a little bit more about the interdisciplinary nature of my degree, which always make me feel awkward, like the employer thinks I've misrepresented myself.  I don't claim to be an engineer, I claim to have an interdisciplinary degree that includes the core engineering curriculum.

After about ten minutes on the phone, the interviewer explained that this concluded the initial phone screening, thanked me for my time, and told me I should hear about next steps in a week or so.  I smiled, said good-bye, and hung up with the distinct impression that she thought I had misrepresented myself on my resume and wondering what, other than looking for jobs, I was supposed to have been doing since my graduation (which was barely two months ago).

I have been trying very hard to do All The Right Things with my transition to a role in adult society.  (While college is part of the transition, it definitely doesn't count as part of adult society.) In this particular instance, I have spent time in crafting a resume that paints my experiences in the best possible light while still presenting a factually accurate picture of my talents. I don't think my resume overstates my accomplishments: in school, I have worked hard and achieved well; in the workplace, I have done good work and made at least some impact in at least three of the four places I've worked*.

K has pointed out that I may be reading too much into the interview because I'm nervous and because the job market is so frightening, and I hope he's right. However, his sensible response does not dispel my low-level urge to break down and beg interviewers to just tell me what more they want me to do before they hire me so that I can go out and do it.  It's hard for me to stay reasonable in an environment where I know people will consider me lazier and more inadequate the longer I am unemployed or underemployed.

Still, assuming that I do hear back when expected, I should know in about a week if my fears are unfounded.  Until then, I'm going to do my best put the worry away and keep looking.
*I tried to make an impact at the minimum-wage retail job, too, but my opportunities to do so there were limited.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Mug Cake

I want cake more often than I should eat cake. So, when a blog with various single-serving mug cake recipes popped up on Pinterest, I got really excited.  Brilliant! I thought.  I can make a small single-serve cake, and I won't eat "accidental" second helpings or let the leftovers go bad!

Then, I entered some of the recipes into a calorie calculator. One serving of any of a couple varieties of mug cake, it turns out, totals on the order of 800 calories. (Oof.) Worse, the bulk of the ingredients were low-nutrition or high-calorie (or both): processed flour, granulated sugar, oil, peanut butter, and so forth. I decided that there had to be a better way, and so I teamed up with my brother* to create a less-awful recipe.

I started with this recipe for Nutella mug cake and made some modifications to the ingredients, using

  • 4 tablespoons raw oatmeal, blenderized until similar to flour
  • 1 cup applesauce to replace most of the sugar and some of the oil
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons chocolate peanut butter**
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

the steps I took to make the cakes
The eating is the best part.
I mixed everything up per the directions and divided the recipe between two mugs, which I had Ard spritz with cooking spray while I was measuring.  I popped them one at a time into the microwave, starting with a minute with the intention of adding time in thirty-second increments if needed.  My microwave didn't need the extra time, though, so they came out of the microwave gratifyingly quickly.

The texture came out well but I found the flavor lacking a bit: they were surprisingly bland. The peanut butter taste got lost under the chocolate taste, and it wasn't very sweet at all (kind of like dark chocolate, though, so this wasn't a huge problem).  Ard's immediate solution involved slathering his with peanut butter, as his nutrition plan doesn't involve a reduction in calories.  As my nutrition plan does involve a reduction in calories (at least until I reach a healthier weight), I think there should be a better way.

Ard and I brainstormed some solutions while we ate our cakes.

  1. Use sweeter mashed banana instead of less-sweet applesauce.
  2. Replace the rest of the oil with chocolate peanut butter.
  3. Add a little bit of extra salt, as the chocolate peanut butter apparently contains a sixth of the sodium of the non-chocolate variety of peanut butter we have.
Does anyone have any other suggestions for improvement?

*Ard had the very important job of eating the other mug cake, as I decided that instead of halving the recipe and needing to find weird measuring spoons, I'd just change the spec from "serves one" to "serves two".
**The first ingredient in Nutella (and its clones) is sugar.  The chocolate peanut butter I picked has "peanuts" as its first ingredient and omits hydrogenated oil and high fructose corn syrup.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Biphasic Sleep: Day 25

Now that I've been on a biphasic sleep schedule for a few weeks now (and have had some sleep mishaps and challenges), I have some additional thoughts about it.  The most annoying thing I found was that I could have controlled some of the dumb oversleeping things I did, particularly during my recent spree of traveling. It is entirely my own fault: I didn't want to get out of the comfortable bed, and neither did K, so we reinforced each other's bad behavior.  Since we're four hours apart again, I find it easier to get out of bed.  (More on my relationship with getting out of bed tomorrow, hopefully.)
  1. Nutrition plays a larger role in my energy level than I thought.

    I always knew I had more energy on days that I'd taken a multivitamin, but I didn't connect that to overall nutrition.  No one should be shocked to hear that fruits and veggies are good for them, but the extent to which eating fruits and veggies made me feel good surprised me. Cutting down on processed sugars and grains has also helped me feel more awake and energetic.

  2. I wish stuff wouldn't conflict with my nap.

    I don't have a lot going on right now, fortunately, so this doesn't impact me too heavily. However, my father rigidly prefers that dinner occur at 5:30-- shortly after he arrives home from work. He has good reason: he wants to get the clean-up done.  However, I nap from 5:00 to 6:30, which means I can't eat with my family. In some ways, because I rarely feel hungry at 5:30, I like having an excuse to eat later, but I still miss the structured time with my family.
  3. 90 minutes takes up a longer-than-expected block of the day.

    For one thing, it's FAR too long to slip away and sleep.  I can pull over and take a twenty-minute side-of-the-road safety nap (if there's a rest stop or place to pull over), but ninety minutes is out of the question.  Over the past few weeks, during my nap, I found myself falling asleep for twenty minutes, waking at 5:30, and then struggling to fall back asleep for another twenty minutes before waking again at 6:30.
  4. Afternoon sleep differs from night sleep.

    Perhaps this stems more from the heat and lack of air conditioning than the time of day or type of sleep, but I find that my nap requires a different configuration than my core sleep. I use a different blanket (that doesn't cover my feet) and I sleep in a different position.  Also, for my core sleep, I've been playing MP3s my brother got from his installation of Pzizz (as I can't figure out how to purchase the Android app, which supposedly exists. A Linux version would be fine too). They help delineate a cooling-down period at night, which means I fall asleep much more quickly, and Ard says they improve his sleep quality.  However, during the nap, I find that the same MP3s wake me up after twenty minutes.  (A theme emerges, perhaps.)
  5. When establishing a routine, I need to stick with it.

    While traveling with K for the wedding we recently attended, there were a couple of instances where we couldn't nap when we wanted to because we were driving or otherwise engaged and couldn't slip away.  This upset our sleep schedule-- but in much the same way that a couple of particularly late nights upset my sleep schedule while I had a healthy sleep routine.  To cope with it, we ended up sleeping a lot when we had the time, and now we're pretty much back to normal, starting to feel sleepy at around 4:00PM and 2:00AM.  (We're still adjusting a bit, and we really should have been more careful so close to the beginning of the adjustment period.)
Luckily, the disruptions haven't been too toxic to the routine, and we've gotten back on the schedule.  Still, the Everyman schedule gets more tempting every day: the naps are shorter, they have more flexibility when you get adjusted*, and you sleep for fewer total hours with shorter waking periods.

I don't want to change things up again before we've adjusted a bit more, though, and I haven't yet figured out how to make it work with our responsibilities. (I have a five- to six-hour block that requires sustained attention and alertness as I start a part-time temporary job at a preschool tomorrow, and K doesn't want to sleep in odd places if he can possibly avoid it.)

I won't worry about it, though: for now, the biphasic sleep works for us. (Note: it also works better if you don't miss naps, as we have.)
*Because there's only so far you can move a 90-minute nap without seriously disturbing your sleep or the event. If there's an event that starts near the beginning of it, you're stuck.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

I Don't Like Microwaved Spinach

I've been delinquent at posting.  Scold me if you must, but please note that I've been busy (and very excited about) starting up our wedding website! K tells me that my excitement is disproportionate but cute. I've never had a particularly good sense of proportion, so he has probably made a fair assessment*. But we have a pretty domain name and I made an image thing for it that reminds me a bit of Cinderella's pumpkin coach. No one shall dissuade me from my joy over this small triumph!

So, I've been busy over there.  I have also been trying to figure out how I'm going to sneak more vegetables into my diet, because they take work to prepare and eat and because, while they make me feel temporarily full, an hour later I'm ravenous again if I don't eat anything else.

Yesterday, I tried to make egg white muffins to sneak some vegetables in to my breakfast. It mostly worked, but took too long to make (20-30 minutes baking plus prep) and the muffins didn't come out of the ramekins I used for the test batch even remotely as well as I had hoped (so it was obnoxious to clean up).  So, today, I tried a variation, and this happened:
toast topped with spinach and egg white
Poor soggy spinach.
Basically, I took 1/2 cup of egg whites and poured it over roughly a cup of chopped spinach and then microwaved it for two minutes while the bread was toasting.

I've never been much of a fan of cooked spinach**, and while the baked spinach yesterday was fine in terms of taste, the microwaved spinach became unpleasantly soggy. Far from inedible, in my opinion, but also far from "something I'll make again".  As with yesterday's experiment, my opinion is still "better to just make an omelet".

Does anyone have any suggestions on how I could either fix the sad, soggy spinach or prevent the caked-on crumbles clean-up chore?
*For example, I heard an ice cream truck go by yesterday. We never had ice cream trucks in our neighborhood when I was small: apparently, an ice cream truck had hit a child a few years before we moved here, and the local government banned them in response.  I ran to the window to watch it go by. K, watching me through the miracle of webcam technology, remarked, "I thought you were going to run out of the room and chase it down." I promised him that, in the interest of avoiding unhealthy foods like ice cream, I only considered it for thirty seconds or so.
**Except in lasagna. Because lasagna.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Upcycled T-Shirt Coasters and Summer Heat

I've spent more time over the past week driving than I would like.  K and I had a wedding on Saturday, and this meant I needed to pick him up from his summer job (four hours away), bring him to the wedding (also four hours away), and back.  Strictly speaking, I could have asked him to take the bus, but this would have cost a lot of money and a lot of time.  Better, we decided, to save the money, drive and have a little more flexibility-- at the cost of a bit of aggravation on my part.

So, to contrast with the driving, I decided to do something fun: trying out a tutorial I found on Pinterest.  Here is what I did (in pictures, because travel tires me out).
red t-shirt
Step One: Identify old t-shirt.
ball of red t-shirt yarn
Step Two: Make t-shirt yarn.
crocheted red coaster
Step 3: Crochet coaster.
glass of ice water on crocheted red coaster
Step 4: Enjoy cold beverage.
In other news, the weather remains hot. It's almost like it's summer or something. I really wish I had someone who would go swimming with me (and, of course, a place to go swimming. State parks, maybe?).  After I hit a certain age, everyone who used to swim with me started courting melanoma laying out in the sun instead of actually spending time in the water and all the bathing suits commonly available for people my size stopped functioning as swimsuits and began functioning as teensy triangles of fabric that fall off if you try to move in them.  I fail to see the appeal of either of these new developments.

I guess growing up ruins summer all around.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Proof of Partner: Entering Adulthood Next to the Right Person

K and I woke up Saturday morning at 7:30, took down and packed up our tent, and were on the road by 8:00.  Nearly four hours later, we arrived at my parents' house with the goal of making ourselves presentable before we went to our friends' wedding.  We had a plan: we would spend the next two to three hours struggling into our unfamiliar formal clothes, drive the last hour, check into our hotel, and have time to take our nap early before six, when we would arrive at the wedding.

We took turns in the shower, and then we diverged. He trimmed his beard while I shaved my legs. I put on a bathrobe and glopped color onto my nails; K pulled out his netbook and his tie and spent forty-five minutes failing to tie a Windsor knot.  After waiting for what I hoped was a suitable interval, I tried to towel-dry my hair, and the towel scored deep grooves into my attempt at nail polish.  I took it off, finished drying my hair, and tried again.

From the bed, K looked up from his tie.  "Do you even like putting on nail polish?" he asked me.

"Not really," I said. "But I'm supposed to be a girl, and girls are supposed to be able to take care of their hands and do their own hair nicely and so on."

"I don't care if you can't do your nails or hair," he told me, watching the frustration bloom on my face. "I still love you."

I paused with the brush in mid-air. "I know," I told him.  "I still feel like I should be able to do these things."

I try to cultivate these skills: the ones that don't come naturally to me, but the ones that may allow me to fit in a little bit better.  Theoretically, employers evaluate your merit based solely on your work performance; in practice, I feel like I miss some interpersonal-interaction targets because I'm too different.  I use different words, think about different things, participate in different leisure time activities*.  When I'm at work, I prefer to focus on work, but the package of professionalism includes appearance and the ability to find enough non-work-related common ground with the people around you to build relationships and trust. It means cooing over baby pictures, carefully remaining neutral when the people around you discuss television shows you wouldn't watch even if you had cable, and participating in office celebrations-- all while attempting to demonstrate your value and your focus on the work at hand. I can do it, but it takes effort.

Struggling with my hair and my nails in preparation for a wedding seems like practice for a career in which I'll have to do things with my hair and my nails on a regular basis, so I didn't give up. Eventually, I managed to stuff myself into a thrifted dress and a pair of heels I can't walk in.  We cut our nap to twenty minutes and got to the wedding ten minutes before the ceremony began.
foot with painted toes and ribbons on a purple dress
Foreground: my foot (without the heels). Background: my dress.
It's the second wedding we've attended as a couple (out of only three I've attended as an adult.. The experience still feels new and a little bit weird: at the wedding, people treat us as a unit. The invitation arrived in a single envelope with two names, and the place card at the table shared the names, too. As neither of us plan to change names when we get married, we will see our names almost exactly as we saw them this weekend for the rest of our lives (barring disaster).

Perhaps attending weddings as an adult signals impending adulthood across other areas of my life.  The feeling resembles the one I had the first time I signed a brand new rental agreement-- K and I had elected to room together as a matter of convenience, and reading through the paperwork, placing a security deposit, and signing every page of a twenty-page document seemed like an adventure. (The semester I rented space with a couple of guys, filling the vacated room of a guy who had taken off to parts unknown on a journey of self-discovery, does not count.) It feels good, like I'm stepping into something approaching a permanent place in society (carving out bits to improve the fit whenever I feel I can get away with it).

In that case, the wedding contained another signal. I love to dance. I took dance classes every year except one from the age of five until I graduated from high school. When there's socially-sanctioned dancing, I dance.** The last time K and I went to a wedding, he amiably held my bag and watched me dance with a group of friends.

This time, he beat me onto the dance floor.  Apparently, he secretly spent some quality alone time with the Kinect and our copy of Dance Central and developed some dance moves. (He convinced me to leave it with him while I interned in Florida, claiming he couldn't resist the challenge of a new video game.) Now, it appears that he took time to learn how to do something that I love to do so he could do it with me, sore leg muscles and all. He may not be a polished professional, but he's mine, and I couldn't have picked a better partner.
*I love following baseball with K in part because it lets me have acceptably neutral conversations with people.  Apparently, it's OK to publicly disagree with Yankees fans, but publicly disagreeing with people who oppose marriage equality isn't-- even though both groups of people are clearly wrong.
** I also dance in situations when it's not socially sanctioned, such as in supermarket aisles, when I think no one's watching.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Anger and the Opportunity to Earn Things

I had hesitated to post this. It's been knocking around in my drafts folder for about three weeks: I wasn't happy with it, and it hurt to edit it. Then, this popped up on Facebook.  I think it goes a bit far, but I'm angry, too. 

I love my family, and I love all the teachers and guidance counselors and miscellaneous helpful adult mentors I've been lucky to have all my life-- but they lied to me.  They didn't mean to lie, I think. They wanted to help. They might not even have known that the idea they sold, that people receive rewards commensurate with the hard work they do, is a pleasant half-truth at best. Even so, I am angry: angry that we accept a fiction as fact.  I think it's time for anger, time to recognize that sometimes things just aren't fair.  Now, I hesitate to remain silent.

Isn't it perfectly annoying when someone who is doing you a tremendous favor makes a perfectly reasonable request?

It's happened a couple of times since I've been home-- nothing unreasonable.

ME: "Hey, Mom, is it OK if I wire up my video game system?"
MOM: "As long as you move your stuff off my bed."

I hadn't realized she'd put my stuff on her bed-- I just needed it to not be in my room for a few hours while we washed the shelving so I could work on other things-- and I hadn't realized that the shelving was dry so I could put the things away.

After picking the things up, though, my dad walked into the room:

DAD: "What are you doing with the television? Are things going to change?"
ME: "No, Dad, I haven't moved anything.  The only change is that there will be one extra option for input."

Or, when I asked if I could use some fridge space:
MOM: "Well, your father has three dozen bagels and your brother has eight dozen eggs in there.  And I will never condone soda."

Simple requests, right?  Such easy things to do to keep the favor of the people who have given me food and shelter while I'm unemployed.  I'm grateful, and I can work around this, have worked around this since I moved home.  But it hurts, the reminder that I exist by the grace of my parents.

It all goes down to this tremendous fear I have: fear that I'll let my parents down.  Specifically, I'm scared I won't be able to find a job. I'm scared that I won't be able to find a job, and my parents will think that I'm lazy, that I'm a leech on society.

It seems that everyone says: "All you need to do is persevere!"  Or: "Do all the right things, and eventually something will come along!"

I've had a couple blips.  But, in general, I've checked the boxes. Degree from a decent school? Check, and in business/engineering/maths, which should be useful. Study abroad? Check. Internships? Check and check, since I did two.  I checked the boxes.

Now, I'm applying to jobs-- looking, defining goals, making plans, doing 40 hours of whatever job-search-related work I can think of, to try to prove I'm not a sloth, that I am Taking This Seriously.  (I am, but I have a sneaking suspicion there are hidden rules I've missed somewhere along the line.)  It feels like I'm not getting anywhere.

But even with all the boxes checked, the work put in, the numbers aren't pretty for new graduates*. Everyone tells me to quit reading the news articles, because they're scary, and being scared doesn't help. I can't stop reading the news articles: they're the thing I'm clinging onto, the thing that's telling me that there's not necessarily something horribly wrong with me, that things are tough and competitive out there.  They also make me angry, and I need the anger for two reasons. The lesser of these: so I stop blaming myself.  I can't control everything.  More than that, though, it's a driving force.  I'm angry because bad things have happened on a systematic level, and they're impacting my friends, my future colleagues, my generation.  No one I have known at school has escaped the impact: even the lucky ones who have jobs are often underemployed or live in constant fear of layoffs.

To me, it feels like other people already own all the things that there are to own.  I wonder: will I ever get a chance to earn a share, a living?  Will I ever succeed, or will people sneer at my failures for the rest of my life?  If I make any mistakes, will I damage my chance at success permanently (and is there any way to avoid mistakes)?

And, while I'm trying to figure all of this out-- am I allowed to be a human?  Does my desire to eat the food I like, play the games I like, spend time with the man I like enough to marry-- does that make me selfish and lazy in the interim? Can I balance any of the things I want with the things I need to do to survive, or do I need to put everything I want aside until I've paid to help fix this economic mess we're in?
*The numbers aren't pretty for anyone, but they're proportionally less pretty for new graduates. For example: I cringe every time I read articles that suggest that unemployment or underemployment now can impact earning potential for years after the economy rights itself.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Muffins: Cupcakes in Disguise

A friend messaged me at 3:30AM to warn me that the slowly-blooming bruise where I scraped my leg yesterday meant that the bruise ran deep and would hurt for a long time.  When I saw the message after I woke up at 7:30, I thanked him for the warning and excused myself so that I could hunt up some coffee.

Coffee in hand, I returned and found that my friend had shared his own breakfast plans with me: a muffin and a glass of milk.

"For me, muffins are like pasta," I wrote to him.  "I like them, but in terms of nutritional value, I don't like them enough to eat them very often."  (They're both heavy on processed carbohydrates-- not very filling, and I love the nutritionally-similar breads, biscuits, and bagels so much more. Also, desserts.)

"This is why I seldom purchase muffins," he replied.

This didn't satisfy me. "I just don't understand why, if you are going to eat something that is in all respects like cake, you do not actually eat cake."

The question became: what is the difference between a chocolate muffin with chocolate chips and a chocolate cupcake?  In an effort to demonstrate the essential similarities between the former (a breakfast dessert) and the latter (a dessert breakfast when eaten before 11:00AM), I made some cupcakes.  Because I didn't want leftovers, I made a recipe of two cupcakes, adapted from this recipe.

  • Ingredients:
  • 1/8 c. whole wheat flour
    1/16 c. white flour1/8 c. granulated sugar1/8 tsp. salt1/8 tsp. baking soda1/16 c. cocoa powder (and a bit)1/16 c. oil1/8 c. leftover coffee1/8 tsp. vanilla3/8 tsp. vinegar
  • Mix all the ingredients up together.
bowl of batter and two custard ramekins
No eggs in this, so you can eat the batter if you like.
Pour into custard ramekins and bake at 350° for about 20 minutes, or until you jab it and the jabbing implement comes out clean.
two chocolate cupcakes and a bowl of frosted
Two cupcakes and a bowl of frosting.
While they're in the oven, make frosting.  When they're cool, frost and eat immediately. I used a spoon, but your mileage may vary.
two frosted chocolate cupcakes
Finished cupcakes!
Yield: Two cupcakes.

They came out a little dry for me, actually-- I might have cooked them for too long.  Still, I enjoyed my cupcake and heard no complaints from my mother about the one I gave her. Definitely better than a muffin, in my opinion.

So, how do these cupcakes stack up against the muffins you've eaten?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

David Bowie, Hair, Summer, and Bicycle Mishaps

The person who proliferated the idea that hair doesn't effectively insulate your head was full of poo sadly mistaken. I can tell because, thanks to my long hair, the nape of my neck retains as much heat during the summer as other heat-retaining areas of the body (like the armpits). 

I've been growing my hair out since K found out I had never watched Labyrinth and immediately pulled me over to the couch to change that.  "It has David Bowie in it," K explained in an attempt to entice me.

"Who's David Bowie?" I asked.  (I spent the bulk of my childhood with my nose buried in one variety of book or another, so I don't recognize a lot of commonly-known figures in movies and music.)

"Never mind.  It also has Muppets, and it's not as dark as The Dark Crystal. You'll like it."

I remained skeptical right up until a song-and-dance number broke out, complete with Muppets and disturbingly tight pants.

"That's David Bowie," K explained as the song concluded.  Amused, I set my skepticism aside and proceeded to enjoy the movie.

After it was over, I turned to K.  "I want that hair for our wedding."  

"What hair? David Bowie's?" K asked, clearly confused.  We hadn't even begun discussing the wedding, other than the basics (as in: yes, we're getting married, no, we don't know when, maybe sometime after we graduate).

"No, Sarah's hair, from the masquerade scene," I explained.

K made a face. "Don't you think it's a bit... eighties?"

"I like the sparkly bits and the way it's down but not in her face," I said.  "Maybe a less fluffy version?"

"OK," said K.

So I started growing my hair, and a few months later, we began talking in vague terms about what we wanted.  Positive progress, with a single side effect: the nape of my neck gets uncomfortably warm during unpleasantly hot weather.

Today, however, looked promising in terms of avoiding the stickiness and excessive neck-nape heat.  My alarm rang at 7:30 this morning with the sun streaming, but the breeze from the window remained cool.  I'm still adjusting to a biphasic sleep schedule, so the wake-up call failed to thrill me in spite of the gorgeous weather.  In an effort to wake up properly, I dragged myself out of bed, ate a banana, and hopped on my bicycle for the first time in a few years.

Almost immediately, my legs began to sting and the nape of my neck began to heat.  The halter tie of the dress I'd chosen tried very hard to unknot itself, and the leggings rode down.  (If you need another reason to avoid weight gain in college, please note that if you do, none of your clothes will fit, and you probably won't have the money to replace them with clothes that do.)  I made it 25 minutes before stopping, including a brief pause to prevent a wardrobe malfunction.  When I dismounted, I raked my right knee over the cargo rack on the back of the bike, leaving a slightly-red tender spot that hasn't visibly bruised (but still hurts when you poke it).
bruised leg
Still, I claim victory for the day so far: I didn't oversleep, as I did yesterday (when I blinked during the process of getting up and found that 45 minutes had mysteriously disappeared).  I got some physical activity in, and I know I can do better the next time I go out.  I have energy to do things, and in another few moments, I will have finished a blog post.  Not a bad day at all.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Biphasic Sleep: Day Two

Light post today.  I spent most of the day pretty sleepy.  K and I are trying out biphasic sleep: he wants more time to work on his video game projects, and I wanted an excuse to establish a sleep routine. If I don't have something to do, I find the prospect of sleeping in tempting, and I function most effectively with a routine.  So, I put together a graphic that adds some structure to my day.  It will be easier again to maintain this kind of schedule when I'm working part-time later this summer*.
circle diagram representing a day with two periods of sleep and six meals
4.5 hours of core sleep, a 90-minute nap, and six light meals.
I've always been curious about polyphasic sleeping, and I don't have a ton of formal responsibilities right now, so it seems like an ideal time to try it out. To make it easier, Ard is also trying polyphasic sleep: he recently switched from the Uberman to the Dymaxion schedules in order to make his sleep mesh appropriately with his summer job.  While many don't consider the schedule I'm trying to be "real" polyphasic sleep (I'm still getting six total hours a day, instead of the two that Ard gets), I think it has the greatest likelihood of meshing harmoniously with a job.  It also closely resembles a schedule I adopted more-or-less naturally one semester at college, where I slept from approximately four to seven twice a day.

I'm also trying to eat better as part of my weight-loss/health-gain effort.  I hear intermittently about the wonderful health benefits of eating six small meals per day, but the real reason that I hope it will work for me is that I don't function particularly well without regular food.  Lots of people can skip meals and calmly power through it, but I'm not one of them**.  I hate feeling hungry. I get grouchy and stay that way until I've had a snack.

So far, I like the six-meal strategy.  I still need to avoid missing meals, but I don't feel hungry in the periods between them (as I have before when I've attempted to reduce calories). I'm also finding it easier to eat more fruits and vegetables.  The sleep schedule has been more challenging so far, but I'm optimistic-- and if it doesn't work, I can easily revert to typical sleep.
*For those curious: I'll be working as a TA for the six-week summer program at a non-profit preschool for developmentally-challenged three- and four-year-olds. It's not the perfect stopgap job-- it's not in my field and it doesn't pay particularly well-- but it gives me time to apply to other jobs, helps me establish a routine, and the work is very fulfilling (though I don't believe I could do it over the long term).
**On the flip side, I power through a lack of sleep fairly well. K is the opposite way: he regularly forgets meals, but hates anything that gets between him and his sleep. When he brought up trying polyphasic sleep to me, I was (pleasantly) surprised.