Monthly Archives: July 2014

Productivity: To-Do or Not To-Do

I always seem to have a to-do list about a mile long and I can hardly seem to find the time and energy to get any of it done.  I work the mid-shift at work, 11:30 AM to 8 PM.  I get to bed around 11 PM and wake up around 9 AM.  Well, let me rephrase – I get out of bed around 9 AM.  My cats do a good job of waking me around 6 AM.  At that time of morning, I’m too tired to do anything but lay in bed and try to fall back to sleep.

I’ve never been much of a morning person, but when M leaves for work at 9 AM, I always go see him to the door.  I”ve then started making it a habit to shower and get dressed right away.  Then I’ll typically do a blog post or a little bit of tidying up in my room.  Nothing fancy, just bringing dishes to the sink upstairs, throwing trash away, putting laundry in the hamper.  But other than that, I don’t get a lot of maintenance work done in the mornings.  Laundry piles up, I haven’t vacuumed in about two weeks, and I haven’t found time or a way to get better organized (which I feel like I desperately need).  I have tons of things I need to research, check up on, look into, etc.

I don’t have the time in the mornings to tackle some of my more demanding tasks and I don’t have the energy to do them when I get home from work.  My days off inevitably fall to marathoning something on Netflix with M and any plans I had for getting things done go out the window.

I need to figure out a way to be more productive.  To make the best use of my time.  I get sucked in to the TV or internet too easily.  And any free time I have with M is spend enjoying his company instead of tackling a task or two off of my to-do list.  I ‘ve found a way to keep track of all the things I need/want to do and a way to prioritize my tasks, break larger tasks down into smaller, more manageable ones.  But I still haven’t found a way to find the time to get any of these tasks done.

Maybe that’ll be my next big self-improvement project – learning how to better manage my time and get more things done during the day.  Or at least on my days off.  Let me know in the comments if you, my dear readers, have any advice on being productive.  Tips and tricks to make yourself get more done are especially welcome!

Character Development: Week 4

I’m a very visual person.  Especially when it comes to writing, I can’t just imagine it, I have to write it down or draw a picture or something along those lines.  I need to visually see what I’m thinking, if that makes sense.  This is doubly true for character development, I’ve found.

In order to visually see Amilee grow up and go to college and live her life, I decided to create her family in Sims 3.  I don’t get a whole lot of time to play, but when I do, not only is it fun, it really gives me a chance to get into Amilee’s head.  And not just hers, I get to know her parents as well.  I’ve found that Anthony is more laid back than his wife Victoria.  Tori is the one who really encouraged Amilee to study the things that interested her, not just what she needed to study for school.  Anthony would prefer to enjoy his daughter’s company – especially in the kitchen.  He loves cooking and baking with her.

I started her as a child and she just became a teen.  Now we’re into high school and first boyfriends and deciding what to go to college for.  It’s a really interesting time for Amilee.  Her mom is working harder and harder to save up funds for college while her dad just got a new dog, already fearing the empty nest.  These are things I don’t know if I would have imagined on my own without the prompts from within the game itself.

I do know I may go off on tangents in the Sims.  For example, right now, the Leroux’s are in China, adventuring in a tomb.  This is not something I really see them doing within the context of the story they’re the stars of.  But sometimes it’s fun to just play the game to play the game, regardless of the fact that I’m using the game as a tool.

How about you, my dear readers?  Do you ever use things like The Sims 3 to get to know your characters or even to develop plots?  Let me know in the comments!

Weekly Update #33

Another week come and gone.  Still working on my various skills at work.  In order to move forward, I need to work mainly on my handle time.  So that’s what I’ve been doing.  It’s slow going, but we’ll see how I improve week by week here.

It’s my friend Mike’s birthday today!  I wanna wish him a happy birthday for the whole world to see!  Assuming the whole world reads my blog, which I know they don’t, but still.  Happy birthday, Mike!

And also a happy birthday to my boyfriend’s brother, Ryan!  He’s turning some kind of age.  I think we’re doing lunch with him or something.  I don’t know yet, I haven’t been told what the plan is.  But I have a card that I think will make Ryan love/hate me even more than he already does.  I’m kind of excited to see his reaction to it.

I’ve started doing a little bit of research into the possibility of going back to school.  I know, I already have 3 degrees, but none of them are really working for me.  I mean, I may still try to teach English in Japan, but I would need further education to teach Japanese here in the States.  Teaching really isn’t my thing, though.  And translating is more or less out because freelance work is not gonna pay my student loans back.  For my other degrees, there’s not much work in the music industry here in Iowa.  The music culture here is a lot more who-you-know than what-you-know.  And I don’t really know anyone.

I’m looking at possibly going back for Health Information Technology.  I would have to do it part time or online because I really can’t afford to not be making money.  I don’t want to have to take out even more loans, but right now I’m still in the research stage.  I think I would actually enjoy the work I’d be doing.  I like inputting and organizing data.  Color-coding things, answering questions about insurance and the law and all sorts of fun stuff.  I’m not even being sarcastic, that kind of thing is right up my alley.  Bonus: it would be a job where I wouldn’t have to be on the phone all the time.  And better pay.

Has anyone else gone to school for Health Information Technology or currently work in the field?  Let me know your experiences in the comments!

Pinterest Project: Cake Batter Rice Crispy Treats

I may have mentioned before (or maybe not), but I love baking.  Cookies, cakes, brownies, anything sweet that goes in the oven I love.  I found a pretty easy-looking recipe to make with my less-baking-inclined boyfriend: cake batter flavored rice crispy treats.

Cake Batter Rice Crispies1

The original recipe I found at Gimme Some Oven through Pinterest.  It’s pretty straight forward.

Cake Batter Rice Crispy Treats

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Yield: 12-16 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 (10 oz.) bag of mini-marshmallows
  • 1/2 cup yellow cake mix (the dry cake mix, not prepared into a batter!)
  • 5 cups crispy rice cereal
  • 1 (1.75 oz.) container of sprinkles

Method

Melt butter in a large saucepan over low heat and add marshmallows. Stir until they begin to melt, then remove from heat. Whisk in the (dry) cake mix, then stir in cereal so it is completely coated with marshmallow mixture. Sprinkle in half of the sprinkles and briefly stir. (Don’t stir too much or the sprinkles will bleed out their color.) Press the mixture into a baking dish (any size will do) and top with remaining sprinkles. Let sit for about 30 minutes before cutting. I find spraying a knife with nonstick spray helps to cut them cleanly.

Disclaimer: You consume dry cake mix at your own risk.

Cake Batter Rice Crispies3

I made a double batch because M was just having so much fun with the sprinkles!  They didn’t last very long.  My family scarfed down about half, then we shared with M’s family, too.  And between M and his two brothers, the remainder lasted all of 20 minutes after our arrival at his house.

All in all, I would definitely make these again!  They were a huge hit.  Although I did also find a recipe for cookies & cream rice crispy treats, so a batch or six of those might be in my near future.

Music Round-Up

Today, dear readers, I’d like to share with you some of my latest musical obsessions.

I haven’t been able to stop listening to Owl City’s newest EP, Ultraviolet.  My favorite song off of the 4-track record is definitely Wolf Bite.  Check out the video:

I know Adam Young of Owl City has sort of fallen out of the radio spotlight since his huge hit Fireflies, but he’s still an amazing artist.  While I haven’t really actively been following his career, every time I hear something by him, even if it’s just a collaboration with another artist, I always love the song.

Another artist I’d like to share is my good friend John Kargol.  He recently released a music video for a song entitled Evening In Decline for an upcoming movie Izzie Midnight.  Check the video:

I’m actually really excited for Johnny-Boy.  He deserves all of the fame and then some.  He’s such a brilliant musician.  You should definitely check out some of the other songs he’s done.  My absolute favorite song he’s ever done is Not Getting Stronger.  Check out the demo version, posted by amazing drummer Brandon Lerbs:

I cannot wait for a final version of this to come out.  I could listen to this song all day every day.  It’s the first song I ever heard John perform.  It was actually the song that kind of sparked our friendship.  He performed in one of our classes at IPR, and I went up to him and just kind of gushed about how amazing he/the song was.  He’s come a long way since that performance, and it has been one of my greatest honors to watch him grow as a musician.

He’s definitely one to watch, my dear readers.  If you like well-thought out lyrics, intricate melodies, and the driest sense of humor you’ll ever come across, definitely check out John’s work in it’s entirety at his Facebook page, Soundcloud, or his YouTube channel.  Also check out some of the other projects he’s worked with.  Even though they’re not around anymore, The Spotted Sparrows was a fantastic band.  Same goes for Rockets to Nebraska, which contains two other magnificent artists: Brandon Lerbs and Bill Urbank.

Jam on, my lovely readers, until next time.

Character Development: Week 3

Week three of character development for Amilee has arrived!  I’ve filled out more of the questionnaire and shared it with you here.  I don’t have a story for you all this time, dear readers, due to some bigger things in the works for my character here.  Check back next week for said bigger things!

Personality:

Are they a daredevil or cautious? Cautious.
Do they act the same alone as when with someone? Definitely different. Alone, she is clearly more comfortable in her own skin. With someone, she subtly tries to adjust her mannerisms to match the person she’s with.
Habits: she paints her nails so she can pick it off, otherwise she picks at her nails.
Drinks: Tea, or sometimes coffee with Bailey’s
How much: Once in a blue moon.
Greatest Strength: Perception
Greatest Weakness: Insecurity
Soft spot: People who act/are broken.
Is their soft spot obvious, why/why not: She puts up with a lot from people she thinks she can help/fix.
If not, how do they hide it: She doesn’t really hide it, but she doesn’t really admit to it, either.
Biggest Vulnerability: She doesn’t trust easily, but she does put herself on the line for people she hardly knows and it does come back to bite her from time to time.

Background:

Hometown: Smalltown, MA
Type of childhood: Relatively normal and boring (in her opinion).
First Memory: Bouncing on her uncle’s knee at some kind of ball game.
Most important child hood event that still effects him/her: A brutal bully in elementary school explained to her in detail how worthless she was.
Why? She took those words to heart.  She was 13.
Education: BA in Medical Technology
Religion: Vaguely Christian.  Not very religious.
Finances:  Still paying off student loans.

Family:

Mother: Victoria Leroux
Relationship with her: Good.  Mother can be a bit overbearing.  Constantly asking when she’s going to get married and make grandbabies.
Father: Anthony Leroux
Relationship with him: Better.  Father always believed in her and is actually pushing her to go back to school for something she loves – journalism.
Siblings, How many, relationship with each: She’s an only child.
Children of siblings: N/A
Other extended family: Grandma, unmarried uncle on her father’s side.
Close? Why or why not:  Not close, but not distant, either.  They exchange birthday and holiday cards and see each other at family gatherings.

Weekly Update #32

This week has been a bit of an exciting week! Work has been going, and I’m taking steps to further that portion of my career. M bought me a ring. Insurance is confusing. And I got to talk to my best friend for the first time in forever!

Anne, my bestie, lives in Japan. She teaches English and is often busy with photography projects as well. Our schedules don’t often allow for hours of chatting. It did when I wasn’t working, but now that I work nights, not so much. The daylight hours between here and Nagoya are about 12 hours off, so her mornings and my nights line up. And since I work nights now, that opportunity is no more. But it was really nice to catch up with her. I’ve known Anne since 2006, which would be about 8 years now, I think. That’s a long time for me to remain close friends with someone. I’m just kinda bad at keeping in touch with people if they’re not living in my immediate vicinity. Anyway, I’m starting to get off topic. The point was that it was nice to talk to her.

Insurance is confusing, as I have previously stated. I was dropped from my parents plan at the beginning of the month and the plan I signed up for through work was supposed to kick in. There were some issues with documentation and also somehow I’m also on Medicaid now? I keep getting welcome letters and cards from a bunch of different insurance companies. I haven’t had time to sit down and sort out what’s what. But that’s exactly what I have to do tomorrow because I need to get some refills on my meds. So that will be a fun morning on the phone with various insurance companies and then 8 hours on the phone as a representative of an insurance company.

M bought me a ring on Wednesday. Not an engagement ring. Not yet. Just a promise ring, for lack of a better term. Because of our respective debts, we aren’t where we want to be in our life together and this ring is sort of a promise that things are moving forward, even if they are moving slowly. We had to get the ring resized, so I get to go pick it up on Tuesday. I’m very excited to wear it! It means a lot to me that M thought that much about how I’ve been saying I’m frustrated with our current place in life and decided to do something to remind me that we will get to where we want to go. We will. Eventually.

And that’s pretty much been my week.

Pinterest Projects: Pretty Planters

For my birthday a little over a month ago, my parents put some money towards an iPad (something I’ve been lusting after for years now).  My mom also gave me a certificate that granted me a shopping excursion with her at a time of my choosing.  I finally cashed it in, getting mainly odds and ends that I’ve been needing for a while, like a bigger trash can and an actual laundry hamper.

We also visited the ailing garden center at Walmart.  I rescued some of the more lively-looking plants to decorate my freshly cleaned patio, as I have a board on Pinterest dedicated to indoor gardens.  Sadly, since I have cats, indoor gardens are something of a dream for me.  But I was still inspired to get a little green in my life!

Planters1The dark purple plants are vinca.  The white flowers are begonias, the bright red blooms are New Guinea impatiens.  The multicolored bunch in the background are lantana.  And yes, I did keep the little tags saying what the plants were because otherwise, I would not have remembered.

Planters2

The planters themselves were borrowed from mom’s garden collection.

Planters3

The plants themselves didn’t look too healthy, but I actually planted them about a week and a half ago and they’re looking much better.

Planters4

Mom’s feet in the background.  She helped me plant all of these since I’m pretty clueless when it comes to all things gardening.  I can keep an air plant alive no problem, but when it comes to putting things in pots, I’m not the most knowledgeable person around.

Planters5

And lastly, here’s a close up of the lantana because they are gorgeous and I absolutely love them!  Look at those tiny little flowers!  And the colors are so perfect together!  AND it was a whole 50% off the original price!  Totally worth it.

 

Blog Organization

Over the past month and change, I’ve been trying a couple of different methods of organizing my thoughts and scheduling posts.

I tried a blog-specific organizational printable I found on Etsy.  It helped me get initially organized, but I found I’m not one to print out the weekly organizational pages.  On top of that, having it in a binder was a bit too large for me to comfortably work with.

I also tried using various planning apps, but none of those really stuck, either since I work across several different machines – my Mac, my iPhone and my iPad.  Some of the apps I tried didn’t sync across multiple machines, some of the apps I tried weren’t even available on all machines, and some of the apps just didn’t work for me.

But since it’s that time of year for all the glorious back to school supplies to stock the shelves.  I decided I’d try something a bit different and get a regular planner to see if I can make that work for me in terms of both organizing my thoughts and scheduling posts.  So far, it’s working pretty well.  But I just started using it last week.  So we’ll see how it goes.

Ultimately, I’m looking for a system that will let me plan in advance, jot notes down on the days the posts are supposed to go up.  I need something that will let me see a week’s spread at a time.  I really think this regular planner is going to work for that.  There’s even spaces in each week for notes that aren’t attached to a day.  Yeah, I think it’s really going to work for me, but I’ll follow up with how it’s working out.

What methods do you use to organize your blog?  Do you prefer to do everything on the computer/iPad/etc or do you prefer paper and pends?  Let me know in the comments!

Character Development: Week 2 (In A Hundred Words)

As I’ve been filling out more and more of the questions in my previous post, I decided this time I would explore a little bit about Millie’s workplace and grab a little snippet of an average day at the office for her.

The clock struck one. Millie sighed and looked around the office. Her coworkers were mostly at lunch, except for Sophia, who was working on the stack of faxes that needed to go out. There were a couple of people sitting in the waiting room, Mr. Jenkins and a younger man she didn’t recognize. He must be a new patient.

Millie started in her seat as the phone rang suddenly. She breathed in deeply and picked up the phone.

“Thank you for calling Dr. Moldove’s office. This is Millie. How can I help you today?” she answered, smile in her voice.