How to work from home and not hate yourself.

When I’m not chasing a toddler and teeny baby around and basically getting paid to play all day, I mostly work from home, since both my classes and thesis work are online and I work on blog posts from my kitchen. And I tend to get off track a lot, so I find myself two days before a deadline, panicking and hating myself for putting it off for so long. So I decided to make a list (because apparently I love making lists, no joke) of ways to work from home and not end up hating every decision you’ve ever made so far.

Have a set schedule.

Make sure this includes the end of the work day. It’s tempting to just work all the time or into the night, especially if there’s a deadline to meet. I found that sticking to a routine is helpful, which includes dragging myself out of bed at around the same time every day. For me, since I’m not much of a morning person, this is around 9:00am, and I’m at my desk by 10:00am. Now, since I nanny during the day, I’m not working straight through until the evening. I have to leave my house by 11:30am, so I work for a solid hour and a half, and then when I come back around 1:30pm, I have a solid chunk of three to four hours until I have to leave again. This seems weird and difficult in print, but it works for me because my attention span is mostly non-existent, so I get to pause and change what I’m up to every so often. This way, I can bang out a blog post in the morning, then do schoolwork and shoot pictures for the next blog post in the afternoon. I end my workday when I get done with nannying in the evenings, usually around 6:30 or 7:00. I go straight from the family’s house to the gym, and by the time I get home I’m exhausted enough to start winding down for the day.

Get dressed for the day.

This sounds silly, but when you stay in your pajamas all day, you work like you’re in your pajamas all day. At the absolute least, change from pajama pants to sweatpants. You don’t need to get all made up and business casual, but the physical act of changing from things you sleep in to things you work in helps change your mindset to “I’m at work now.”

Treat it like you’re not home.

For me, this means holing up in my study and not coming out unless it’s a set break. It’s like I’m working anywhere else, I can’t just get up and wander. I also don’t let myself keep other crafts and fun things on my desk unless I’m “officially” not working, because I get distracted so easily.

The most important thing about this is don’t let anyone use your time. Don’t let anyone say “but you’re home all day anyways!” and expect you to make appointments and run errands for them. That is a waste of your time. You are working. You are not a personal assistant, you are not someone’s errand boy/girl, you are not just sitting on your ass watching Netflix and eating cookies. You’re trying to get shit done and that can’t happen if you’re running all over town for someone else.

Make a to-do list.

This varies from person to person, but I like having a physical piece of paper with everything I need to get done sitting right on my desk. I make it as detailed as possible, with titles of blog posts I’m going to write and subject matter of emails I have to send. It helps me plan out my day, and keeps me on track in the limited amount of hours I have on my desk. Crossing things out also helps keep me from feeling like I’m stagnating at home, because I am very clearly getting shit done.

Hopefully this list helps, I know people work differently and somethings that work for me may not work for someone else. As always, you can find me on Twitter and Instagram, and by email at thisisnotaquickstory@gmail.com.

 

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Friends that Humor You are an Invaluable Blessing.

For whatever reason, and it’s probably a stupid reason, I hate talking on the phone. It makes me anxious and panicky. Bad things happen when someone calls me. It’s always bad news or I’m always in trouble. So phone calls are for emergencies only. Like if you’re in a restaurant and you’re not sure if you’ll like green curry so you call your Indian friend to ask a question about Thai food. Ahem. Desiree.

Since I hate talking on the phone, I text all the time, which makes me grateful for the unlimited texting plan my dad bought when I was fourteen and texting was really starting to pick up. Which means most of the conversations I have are saved forever (or thirty days) on my phone, and some of them are hilarious.

For example, Desiree and I were discussing our plans for actual adulthood, as well as her upcoming wedding.

Me: Don’t worry, I’ll come save you [when you get taken hostage by terrorists]*

Desiree: Heck you better be with me to start with!

Me: Fiiiine, but who’s gonna rescue us when we inevitably run our mouths?

Desiree: Uhhh…J’s trying to get into flight school, maybe in a pinch he’ll get us?

Me: Better put that in your vows, “In case of kidnapping, I’ll come get you.”

Desiree: “As a side note, if I choose to go help the orphans you have to swear you’ll come save me from the people I piss off.”

Me: “Forsake all others and save me from terrorists.”

Boom. Vows written.You’re welcome.

I am a painfully shy and awkward person, and Desiree is the exact opposite, and somehow by sitting next to each other in Arabic class and living down the hall and studying together, she’s become one of my best friends in the world. When something inevitably goes wrong in my life and everyone else is telling me it’s not that bad, Desiree will agree with me that it is the worst thing ever, and that the person/entity behind it needs to be disappeared. She humors my crazy notions about somehow living abroad and traveling to cool places, and will sift through the myriad of dissertation-length emails I send her in which I’m basically talking to myself about planning out my life. She understands my compulsive need to plan things out, even if the thing being planned out is the hostile takeover of a small island nation. And I would totally rescue her from terrorists.**

*Not “if,” “when.”

**Just kidding. I’d be a hostage with her and our whiny chattering would make them set us free just for some goddamn peace and quiet.

Eavesdropping in coffee shops.

I packed up all my school stuff this morning because I just could not concentrate at home, being super stir crazy and constantly distracted by every little noise (the neighbors were running what sounded like a massive fart machine in their driveway), and set out in the direction of a coffee shop with very specific criteria as to what sort of coffee shop it was going to be. It had to have a lot of tea on the menu, because milk does bad things to my innards and I haven’t quite acquired a taste for black coffee. They had to have wifi, and it had to be free because I am cheap. And it had to be super sunshiny inside because that’s the sort of mood I’m in. I don’t want to sit in sunshine, but I want to sit near sunshine. The first coffee shop would have been promising, and it even had gluten free pastries, but no tea, and the barista looked at me funny when I asked if they had lactose free milk. Whoops.

So I’m at a Starbucks, guys. That’s basically what this post is boiling down to. I packed up all my shit and drove to a Starbucks to study but instead I’m pretty much doing a running commentary about the people around me. At the next table there’s a guy being interviewed for a job here and that’s reminding me of the three interviews I did for Starbucks (but never got hired) and he seems to be doing a lot better than I ever did so good for you, dude. I hope you get the job. Behind me there’s a small group of maybe college freshmen (they look super young but it’s noon on a Thursday so they can’t be in high school) girls and they’re discussing another girl’s Instagram and apparently she posts too many selfies and now they’re talking about what an appropriate amount of selfies is. Whatever, man. If you think you look good, and you’re feeling about yourself, take that selfie.

I think I’m avoiding my statistics homework.

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

The last time I made peanut butter cookies was probably in the eighth grade, for a bake sale for some activity I did. The reason this stands out so much was because in the process of baking the cookies, one of the five teenage boys I was baking the cookies with forgot to add an entire cup of sugar into the cookie dough, and the cookies tasted like vegetable oil and sadness.

I found this recipe somewhere on the internet, but after looking at like three different recipes I realized that the 1:1 ratio of peanut butter to sugar just was not going to happen, so this is a combination of a few different recipes.

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This is a painfully simple recipe. It took me all of ten minutes to get it all done and into the oven.

All you need is:

1 cup natural peanut butter (all the recipes I consulted were adamant about it being natural, don’t know why.)

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

All you have to do is lightly beat the egg and then combine the ingredients into a dough. Form it into balls and place them on parchment papered baking sheets, and squash them into a cookie shape. I used the flat end of a spoon. Most people do that cute little crosshatch pattern with forks.

That’s basically it. They need to go into a 350 degree oven (according to google that’s 176C) for eight minutes, then rotate them in the oven for another five-ish minutes. Use your judgement. They’ll be kind of gooey when they come out, so let them sit for a bit on the baking sheet before moving them to a cooling rack.

I was surprised with how good they tasted, not gonna lie. I was super skeptical about the whole deal but figured I might as well try.

Sick Day Soup: An Accidental Recipe

Guys, I feel awful today. And not gonna lie, this soup started out as mashed potatoes because that’s all I ever want to eat when I’m ill. But then I added too much milk. So…soup. Which is also why I don’t have any pictures of the process.

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As you might have guessed, it’s a potato based soup. I’m not feeling up to writing out a long and clever narrative about it, so here’s the recipe. Tweak as needed.


Potato and Scallion Soup

3 redskin potatoes

1/3 cup cold milk

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon chopped scallions/green onions

3 cloves garlic, chopped roughly

1 tablespoon olive oil

salt to taste

  1. Bring a pot of water to boil, and pop in the potatoes. Let them cook thoroughly. Once they’re done, take them out of the water and cube them, leaving the skins on.
  2. Warm the olive oil and lightly saute the garlic and half the scallions.
  3. Once those are toasted, turn off the heat and add the milk, and then the potatoes, so the potatoes don’t start to fry.
  4. Use an immersion blender, and basically liquefy everything, adding water until it’s the consistency you’d like.
  5. Add the rest of the scallions and blend them in.
  6. Add salt to taste. When I’m sick I tend to add more salt, because I can’t really taste much.

That’s basically it. It’s great for when my throat hurts too much to eat, I have no appetite, and just need to get something down so I can take my DayQuil and be done with it. Enjoy! I’m crawling back under my blankets and calling it a day.

I guess I have a pet lizard now?

A few weeks ago when my brother was home, he was walking across the foyer and a tiny little lizard darted from the dining room into the living room. He alerted me to its presence, but refused to do anything about its interloping (interlopement?) and delegated the task to Piglit, assuming that as a cat, Piglit would be able to chase it down.

Worst. Lizard Chaser. Ever.
Worst. Lizard Chaser. Ever.

Piglit did not care about the lizard, which darted under the armchair in the living room.

I thought that would be the end of it. How long can that thing possibly survive? There aren’t enough bugs in the house to sustain it, at least, there better not be. And I have two cats and a dog who thinks she’s a cat, so the predator to lizard ratio is skewed against the lizard.

But then two days ago as I was coming up the stairs, I saw a little brown shape dart across the floor in a very lizard like fashion. And no matter how much I chased it with the laser light from upstairs, in an effort to get Piglit to do his damn job and catch the lizard, the lizard remains free to roam in my house. I’ve given it the living room because I never go in there anyway.

Any ideas for free range lizard names?

Foil Tape and Twine: making pretty pictures prettier.

Pictures angle

I love photo prints. Like, actual physical pictures. Yes, I also love my instagram and I post pictures often, but I also love having physical copies of people I care about. When I was little, I loved going through my parents’ pictures, especially the ones from when they were young, in college, with all their friends. Clicking through an album on Facebook just isn’t the same. Sigh. But my problem with physical pictures is with displaying them. I don’t want to print them and just have them in a box, and photo albums that aren’t for specific occasions like weddings or first birthdays just seem grandmother-ish.

I’ve been toying with the concept of displaying pictures on twine, held up by clothespins, for a while now, but every time I did it just felt off. Either the pins were too big, or the pictures just seemed unfinished. So while I was wandering the craft store idly wondering if I could afford to drop $100+ on an instant camera, because I really like that look (I can’t.), I stumbled upon the decorative tapes, fell in love, and briefly considered covering everything I own in rose gold tape. I ended up grabbing a three-pack of gold, silver, and rose gold foil tape, along with some teeny white clothespins. I’ve been gravitating towards light colored decorations, because my furniture is black (my mom let me pick it out when I was fifteen), and I want things to be bright and cheery all of a sudden.

So I grabbed my foil tape, and the little white clothespins, and skipped off home (okay, I drove) to play with it all. I also ended up going through a picture album of photos from university, and pulled out a bunch I wanted to display.

materials

As you can kind of tell, I split the pictures I had chosen into three piles, so I would have even amounts of the different colors of tape. From there it was super easy. I just put the tape along the top and bottom edges of the photo, making it as straight as possible and folding it right over. I initially wanted to do all four edges, but when I tried that, it felt closed in, so I kept it to the top and bottom edges.

I was such a cool kid.
I was such a cool kid.
I continued doing that for all of the pictures, until I had three-ish piles of nicely edged photos.

Pictures close

Once I had them in some semblance of an order, I pulled my desk away from the wall and stuck some clear command hooks up, and strung up some twine. I made the middle hooks for each row higher than the ends, because I didn’t want the weight of the pins and pictures to make the twine droop. Once that was up (and I convinced Piglit the cat that he should not try ripping the twine off the wall), I pinned up my pictures, and the ones that didn’t make it onto the wall (I ran out of hooks) have been stuck to my whiteboard with magnets. Maybe I should do a little post about my half of the study? It’s super organized now, and I know that won’t last long.

Pictures close up

I really like how it all turned out. The tape makes the pictures look a bit more uniform, even though some of them were taken on my old phone, some with my DSLR, and still more are 20+ year old prints that my parents took when I was a toddler (note me on my dad’s shoulders in the bottom row, second from the left).

Desk

I really like having something on my wall. The blank space in front of my desk was driving me nuts. I’m really happy with this project. Next, I want to take a light colored contact paper and stick it to the top of my desk. Is that a plausible thing? I’m getting sick of the black furniture.

Let me know in the comments if you try this or tag me on instagram, or twitter. For collaborations or craft ideas, email me at thisisnotaquickstory@gmail.com.

Meet Persephone

As you may or may not have noticed, I have a new header on my blog. It looks like this:

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I think it’s super adorable. I took the background picture myself, last Father’s Day, when I was at a restaurant on the shore of Lake Erie with my dad, in Ohio. Yes, that is Lake Erie. I was surprised too. I grew up in northeast Ohio, and the lake had a big factor in my childhood, whether it was watching school closings every morning in winter because of lake effect snow, or going to Mentor Headlands beach with my dad and brother. Every year for Father’s Day we would go to Geneva-on-the-Lake, a little touristy-trappy town right on the lake. Now that my dad’s moved to Chicago, I’m not sure when the next time I’ll be near Lake Erie is.

But Lake Erie is also kinda polluted. So I didn’t think it would be that far fetched for a sea monster to be swimming around in there. Of course, I had to draw one.

Persephone

This is Persephone the sea monster. Persie for short (thanks, Kat). She looks like an octopus, has eight tentacles like an octopus, but she is not an octopus. She might be an octopus. With my limited artistic skills, I doodled her out and colored her in very late last night, which might explain why the mascot of my blog is a little blue sea monster/octopus with sharp teeth named Persephone.

Who knows, I might put her on a shirt or something.

I get irrationally attached to inanimate objects.

When I go to the gym, I tend to use the same elliptical every day. It’s against a wall, not a railing, so I don’t feel like I’m going to fall backwards, not right under a light so it’s not too bright, and not too close to an air vent so my hair doesn’t blow across my face and tickle my forehead. It’s also not too close to the elevator doors because I get startled whenever they open. In short, it is perfect.

Since I usually go to the gym at the same time every day, I manage to get on “my” elliptical, since the same people are there every day and do the same thing. But sometime, there will be someone on my perfect machine. And then I pout.

Of course since I’m a functional adult, I hop right on any one of the dozen or so other ellipticals the gym offers. But I want that one. I feel weird anywhere else, and as a creature of habit, I never feel like my workout is quite up to (my admittedly low) par on a different machine.

Anyone else feel that way?