Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Christine Lagarde to lead IMF

I am ridiculously excited about this! It is so nice to see an obviously qualified woman chosen as the consensus candidate of a hugely influential job, especially in what is viewed as a traditionally masculine field. Also, it is a welcome relief after the previous head was arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting a hotel maid.

According to the article, the International Monetary Fund is working on boosting female management, looking to have 25 to 30 percent of it's management filled with women by 2014, up from the current 21.5%, according to this May 19, 2011 article in the New York Times. Hopefully this drive to increase female participation in management will also help the Fund to address the issues around sexual harassment raised in the article, which make the IMF sound like a harrowing, threatening place for a woman to work. Certainly, getting rid of a Managing Director with a history of at least one other sexual harassment claim while he worked at the Fund in addition to his currect legal troubles cannot hurt in the effort to improve the work environment for women. The Fund also hired Virginia R. Canter specifically to investigate harassment claims, which definitely shows some real commitment to improving the Fund's environment and track record.

I am just glad to have another strong powerful woman that I can point my daughter to and say, look, it really is possible to do rise and succeed at something you are good at. It doesn't have to be a boy's club.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Menu, week of 6/26

This week I am focused on greens in the garden. I am sure the kids are going to be thoroughly sick of greens soon, but they are so healthy, and we have a ton of them growing now. I don’t want to waste them.

Tonight:  chili pasta (which is like that boxed helper meal, only made with actual ingredients), broccoli
This was the boy’s suggestion. I haven’t made this in a long time--not since before I started eating meat again.

Monday: Minted lamb burgers with hummus and feta, beef barley soup, sweet potato fries, sauteed greens
I know, two meat dishes is not something I would normally do, but I need to use my leeks, and I would like to have beef barley soup for lunches and stuff through the week.

Tuesday: polenta with sausage and mustard greens
The kids will be at their dad’s on Tuesday, so it is the perfect time to have a dish that calls for hot Italian sausage--something that might cause the girl to spontaneously combust.

Wednesday: beets and greens curry with chickpeas, chicken curry, aloo paratha, basmati rice, chopped salad
I am having my Indian-food eating friend over for dinner this night, which will be fun!

Thursday: layered chicken casserole, rice, broccoli
This is from Cooking for the Rushed, and involves a casserole of pre-cooked chicken, grated cheese and cream of chicken soup. Not my favorite idea, but it involves the girl willingly eating something with a sauce, so I do like that.

Friday: beet green risotto, various leftovers
The risotto will be based on this recipe, but not totally the same-- I am thinking that I will roast some beets to add to the dish. I wanted to make this on a night the kids were here, because they will eat almost anything in risotto, but this is where it seems to fall in the planning.

Overall, this should be good--healthy and varied enough to keep me from being bored.


Update on writing goals:

Once again, I met my goals at the last minute. Here is my third post, I submitted one Pulp Angels post, and I wrote 1090 words in my fiction story. I even did some work on my statistics on women in SF project. All in all, not bad, but I am thinking I need to do more to really make progress as I would like. It is hard to fit it all in, though, with work and kids and friends and the need for some downtime. I am working on it, though.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Update on leaving vegetarianism

It has been a little over two months since I stopped being a vegetarian, so I think it is time to evaluate the results. Spoiler alert: they are all pretty positive.

Here are a few things I have noticed:
  • I don’t have that unfillable hunger I used to have; I get hungry, but then I eat and I feel better, unlike before, when I would feel burstingly full of stomach, but still not satisfied
  • I have more energy
  • I have less breakouts on my face
  • I haven’t lost any weight, but I haven’t gained any weight either; all of my clothes are looser, and people ask me all the time if I have lost weight, so something is going on here
I have not turned into a full carnivore, eating meat all the time. There are still nights when we have a vegetarian or vegan dinner, and when we do eat meat, it is usually more in the ingredient role rather than the star of the plate. I am still focused on getting as many vegetables crammed into a day (and into my children) as I possibly can. We are still reducing but not eliminating carbs, especially simple carbs.

The transition has been easier than I anticipated. I have found lots of good recipes online, as usual, and I have been enjoying trying some different things. It certainly makes eating outside the house a lot easier. People can feed me, and I can go to just about any restaurant. I am still somewhat appalled by the whole situation, because I thought I was doing what was best for my health. How could it all be so wrong? But I am adjusting.


In other news:
  • I made it to 1027 words of fiction for the week last week. That number includes notes, but those notes were important, because they led to the decision to throw out a bunch of what I have and start over. I know, that doesn’t seem like huge progress, but it is, because now I feel that I can move forward with a draft, and not edit anymore until I am done, because I have a good direction. I will re-use some of what I have, I am just restructuring a bit and changing the timeline of the world building (I was going to be doing the story post-big-political-change, and now it will be mid-change).
  • I need to add a note to my camping planning: I must do menu planning for the week after the camping trip either as a part of the planning for the trip or during the trip itself. This week has been pretty random on the dinner front, because I had no plan, and I am out of the habit of worrying about this during the week.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Camping Report, part 2

I am pleased to report that the second night of camping was a success! It rained again, but we didn’t have to flee the campground, and our new tent kept us all dry. It didn’t start raining until we went to bed for the night. In fact, it started almost immediately after we made the last trip the bathroom, checked to make sure nothing was left outside, and stepped into the tent and zipped up the door. Perfect timing! There was a period between midnight and 2 AM when I kept checking the radar to see if the storm would get worse, then making sure it was going away for the night, but once I pried myself away from the phone, it was a good night’s sleep.

Although I have been taking my kids camping for many years now, since the boy was not quite one (he’ll be 9 next month), I am getting organized all over again. There was a time, before I bought the house, when I had my camping stuff fairly organized, but it all got scattered in the move. Plus, there is the whole ADHD medication issue, so I am better at this sort of thing in general now.

I started a bin of camping dedicated supplies for this trip. My goal is to have just about everything we need in that bin so that we can come home from one trip, refill anything that needs refilling (like paper towels, spices, cooking oil, batteries, and the like), and set it aside, ready to go for the next trip. We didn’t have everything we needed for this trip, so I had to borrow some things from the regular kitchen, but I am planning ahead now, so that we can build up the camping kit. Every time I wished I had something that wasn’t in the bin this weekend, I whipped out my phone and made a note, so that there is a good chance I will actually bring these things next time.

Stuff we have in the kit already (the big bin, plus bigger things just stored next to it, on the shelf:
  • Tent
  • Air mattresses
  • Air mattress pump
  • Tabletop grill
  • Lanterns and a flashlight
  • Paper towels
  • Tissues
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Spices: salt, pepper, garlic salt, everyday seasoning
  • Plastic cups
  • Can opener
  • Wine bottle opener
  • Extra batteries
  • Deck of cards
  • Bug spray

Things I want to get to add to the kit:
  • Serving platter
  • Reusable plates, bowls, silverware
  • Plastic wine glasses (or maybe stainless steel)
  • Cutting board
  • Overhead fan for tent (battery operated)
  • Dish tub
  • Pots
  • Aluminum foil
  • Set of BBQ tools
  • Serving bowls
  • Moist towelettes
  • Water bottles
  • Cots for sleeping
  • Sheets dedicated to camping trips
  • Notebooks, sketchpad, notepads
  • Pens, pencils
  • Sunscreen
  • Plastic baggies

Things we will continue to pack from home:
  • Pillows
  • Clothes
  • Food
  • Books
  • Games

Lessons learned in this trip:
  • At 13, almost 14, the girl is finally a useful camping partner; she helped a lot with the packing and unpacking
  • Simpler is better when it comes to meal times; if I must do an elaborate meal, I should have most of the prep work done already
  • I have got to prepare these kiddoes better for the idea that camping involves *actual exercise* like hiking, not just sitting around at the campsite
  • I really want to find a way to buy myself a new bike and get a bike rack for the car before the weeklong trip in July; stupid need to eat every single day
  • Planning ahead is key! But once I have a good camping kit, I won’t need as much planning time
  • Don’t let the girl pack the car--she did put the tent on top for easy retrieval when we got to the campsite, but the rest of the stuff was kind of random, and it was hard to keep organized.

All in all, it was a good trip. I think we could even manage a weekend with just me and the kids sometime, which would be fun.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Update on Writing goals

Since this is the first week I have tried to set a real goal for writing, rather than a nebulous “write more,” it is time to see how I did. The original goals (slightly rearranged in order):

  • 1 Pulp Angels post every week
  • 3 posts on my personal blog per week
  • 1000 words of fiction per week

What I did this past week:

  • 1 Pulp Angels post
  • So far I have done two blog posts, but if you count this one, then three (I think it makes sense to make my writing week go from Monday to Sunday, since I do a lot of my writing on the weekend, so it is totally not cheating)
  • 371 words of fiction

That last seems kind of pathetic, but I did spend a lot of time thinking about plot while I was camping this weekend, so I feel somewhat good about that still. And, since I am considering Sunday part of the current week, I might still be able to pull that one out, too, as I plan to do some more writing tonight. All that thinking about plot has left me with a direction, in addition to the setting and characters I had already started to flesh out. I will at least attempt to do some outlining to see how my plot works, and I may get more story on paper.

I have another project I am working on that I think I will be adding on top of these goals: taking a deeper look at statistics of women vs. men in the SF field, as writers, editors, reviewers, etc., for Broad Universe, updating what they currently have. I am working with a couple of other people, and we have a lot of work to do before we start posting, I think. I am very excited about it, though!

So, all in all, not a bad week. The goals definitely helped, I did more writing than I did without them. I don’t intend to turn this blog into all writing goals all the time, but it is helping me focus for now. After this first week getting used to sitting down at the keyboard, I think I am refining my goal there to be three posts that are about something else--something that happened to me, something that I read that I want to comment on, etc, and not just a writing update post, because this is starting to seem a bit circular to me. I don't want to get to the point where I am posting every week "See, here is my third post, I made the goal!"

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Misadventures in camping

Wednesday afternoon: Decide to go on a short weekend camping trip. There's not much time to plan, but it's only a couple of days, so it should be fine. There is a chance of rain, but the forecast could change. My friend and I decide to make a final decision based on the weather forecast Friday morning. She and her daughter are already at the campsite, because she is a teacher and has the summer off.

Wednesday evening: After work, I head for my parents’ house, where the kids have been hanging out all day. The boy has his summer mohawk, and he is suitably smugly pleased about that. Both children are ridiculously excited about camping, because my daughter and my friend’s daughter have been texting about the possiblility. I decide not to point out that we are not sure to go because of rain, instead telling them that they have a lot of cleaning to do before we can think of leaving for the weekend. After dinner, we head to Target and purchase a new tent, air mattresses, a tabletop grill, bug spray and smores forks.

Thursday: I am working from home, so I am able to do a lot of laundry and shop for food over lunch. I make a couple of things ahead: tuna salad, marinate onions for avocado salad. We can do this, right? Even though I am heading out for a pre-scheduled Mom’s night out that will take me out of the work all evening? The children will work on this while I am gone, right?

Thursday, 10:00 PM: Wrong. So wrong. As far as I can tell, the children watched TV, played on the computer, and ate granola bars while I was gone, shedding wrappers throughout the house (and when I say throughout the house, I definitely do NOT mean into the various trashcans placed in nearly all rooms in the house) as they went. I lose my mind, threaten the children with no trip unless they work like fiends the next day, send them around to pick up granola wrappers and make gazpacho. Upstairs before bed, I do most of my clothes packing. I don’t need much, it is only two days. Maybe this will work out fine.

Friday morning: This is an office day. I wake up the girl before I go, so that she can get right to work. I pick many mint leaves from the garden while I take the dog out, so that we can have mojitos with the Cuban themed BBQ I have planned for Saturday. Before I leave, I start to make the marinade for the cuban roasted pork and realize I forgot to get lime juice. No problem, there is a store a block away from my office, and I need to get rum anyway--all of my rum is being used to make homemade mint liqueur.

Friday work day: Throughout the day, I text the girl to keep her on track. She seems to be moving along, cleaning the kitchen, getting a lot of packing done. This won’t take long, right? All I have to do is get out of work a little early, finish the pork marinade and trim the roast, pack the food, finish my stuff and we can head out.

Friday, 3:00: Damn! I finished my financials, due today, but I only did half of the financials for the guy on vacation I am covering. No problem, I will dive in now.

Friday, 3:50: Wait, what is this? I have no idea what he is doing on this screen, and I don’t want to mess it up. I want to leave at 4:00, but I call my team lead for help anyway. I can’t get someone else in trouble. We get it straightened out, and I doublecheck everything, only to find that some things have gone out of whack in the hour since I balanced them. I re-fix them, knowing my detailed notes for the regular guy are screwed, but figure we can get this ironed out when he returns. By the time I wrap everything up and head out the door, it is 4:39, approximately 21 minutes earlier than I would normally leave, and I still have to go to the store. Well, we can make it up, right?

6:00: I make it home with all stuff, ready to swoop in, approve the kids’ cleaning activities and finish up. The kitchen does look a lot better, but the kitchen floor is still sticky.

Me: "The floor is still sticky."

The girl, surprised: "I mopped!"

Me, starting to lose my mind: "But it is still sticky! It isn’t enough to just run the mop over it, you have to check and see if it worked!"

7:10: After much arguing and reminders, we make it out the door. We need to stop for gas and ice, then pick up some fast food and we will be on our way. Sun down is 8:28, so I point out that we need to put the tent up right away when we get to the camping site, before it gets dark. Overall, though, I feel pretty good. We are going camping!

8:15: We arrive at the camp site, and take out the tent right away. The girl announces that she needs to go to the bathroom. I suggest we put the tent up first, but she threatens to have an accident, so I tell her to hurry, it is starting to get dark.

8:45: It is really getting dark. Where is that girl? My friend, who is much more experienced with tent installations than I am, has been helping me, but the girl was supposed to hurry back. I text her: “Get back here now.” She replies: “we r on r way bak” I reply: “Run”

She returns, and we only have the rain flap left to install. I show her the directions and head for the bathroom myself. I ask my friend if there is a closer bathroom than the main one the girl went to, but she says the one two camping sites down was damaged in a recent storm and has been closed. Oh well, more exercise, right?

The rest of evening goes pretty well. We play travel Pictionary, the kids have smores, and we get a little bit of reading done. The pump for the air mattresses runs out before my mattress is fully inflated, but the girl spends some time inflating it with her lung power, too. Surely it will be fine.

11:00: The girl and I head to the bathroom for a last trip before bed. She tries to convince me to just let her use the trees, but I say we should walk up. I am so tired that I try to convince her to carry me back, but we make it back without incident. The boy proclaims he is not tired, and I decide to let him play on his DSi for a bit while I read. The mattress really isn’t inflated enough, but it will probably be fine for one night.

12:00: Okay, boy, close the DSi, it is time for sleeping.

Boy: “I have to go to the bathroom.”

Ugh, I am so close to sleep now. Me: “How about you just go behind a tree?”

Boy: “I’d really rather go to the bathroom.” Why didn’t I make him go with us at 11:00?

Me: “You are lucky I love you.”

We make it up and back, with only a little bit of dramatic pretending to fall asleep while standing up on my part. This is good anyway, because he is sharing my air mattress and we don’t want any accidents.

12:30 AM: I hate those people at the end of the street. This is not the time for throwing things at your friends so that they will yell at you, and talking loudly. God, will they ever SHUT UP?!?

2:30 AM: The trip to the bathroom was not enough. He is off the edge, and there is a huge wet spot on the sheet. Fortunately, it doesn’t come all the way over to me. I go back to sleep.

3:30 AM: The girl: “What? What? I don’t know!” She has done this before, so I know not to compound the problem by talk ing to her. She is asleep throughout, but I am awake. It passes quickly, though, and I go back to sleep.

5:00 AM: The girl wakes me up. “Are those tornado sirens?” Me, sleepily: “Hmmf? Yeah, but we are fine. We can still sleep.”

5:02 AM: My friend, outside the tent: “Do you hear that? What does the radar look like on your phone?” Damn, I have to get up. I check the radar, and there is a giant line of storms headed our way. We start loading our stuff back into the car, trying to decide whether to abandon the whole trip or just leave during the storm. My decision making skills are seriously hampered by the lack of sleep, but we decide to empty the tent, but leave it for later, go for breakfast, and reavaluate later in the day.

7:00: Several cups of coffee are keeping me awake now, but it won’t last. We decide to head home and nap before the final decision.

7:30: Driving home down the corridor of concrete that is Highway 40/61. I understand why the people in the surrounding houses want the sound buffering, but 8 lanes of highway hemmed in by 10 foot high concrete walls? My god, that is bleak.

8:00: Stagger in the house, give kids directions to put the food in the fridge, wash my sheet, and charge the air mattress pump then head up to bed. Sleep, glorious sleep!

8:38: “Girl! Stop singing!”

After a couple of hours of sleep, I feel much better. We are getting ready to head back out, despite a 60% chance it will rain again tonight. We can always hang out and then leave before bed if the radar looks menacing. Wish us luck.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Menu, week of 6/12/11

Menu for this week:
Sunday: Gazpacho, salmon burgers, sweet potato fries
I made the gazpacho and the girl did the rest; nice and quick.

Monday: Rosemary Chicken with White Beans, broccoli, Quick Flatbread
I made this last week, and the girl loved it so much that she wanted to cook it for her grandmother tonight. I added onion and carrot last week, and I am going to try to get the girl to do that plus zucchini tonight, because I forgot about the zucchini, and it needs to be used. I made a big pot of navy beans to use in this and other recipes this week this morning.The flatbread batter, made with chickpea flour, is already sitting in the kitchen, waiting for baking time.

Tuesday: French lentils with walnuts and goat cheese, frittata, more flatbread
I didn’t end up making this last week, because I had about 10 minutes for dinner last Tuesday due to a late night at work combined with the need to go to a jewelry party. I love it, though, so I am trying again. The frittata will likely be mostly greens from the garden, because I have a lot of those.

Wednesday: Salmon noodle casserole, peas, unless we go to my dad's house for dinner
The kids’ favorite. Basically a white sauce with curry powder, Mrs. Dash, canned salmon, soy cheese and egg noodles. They eat the heck out of this dish.

Thursday: Beef barley and leek soup
I will probably add a bunch more veggies to this, depending on what I have on hand, including garden greens.

Today I am going to make Cassoulet with a lot of Vegetables for lunch, probably without meat, since I am just throwing this together with the beans I made this morning, and I don’t think I have any meat on hand for this. I feel so healthy!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Professional vs. Amateur writer

I have wanted to be a writer as long as I can remember. I have vague memories of scribbling curlicue lines across a page, in ordered rows, when I was too young to think of an actual story with actual words. If you held it at arm’s length and squinted, it looked like prose. As I got older, I wrote real stories and went through a few years of angsty teen poetry writing, which mostly just made my friends roll their eyes. I took a creative writing course in college, but most of writing shifted to research papers and essays. As I moved into motherhood and professional work, my personal writing subsided even more. I did a lot of online writing, but it was emails and bulletin board posts, nothing formal. I blogged, but only sporadically.

I missed writing, but I had two major problems: lack of focus and lack of confidence. There was a time when I would have said lack of time, but that is just an excuse. If you are motivated and focused, time can be found in all but the busiest schedules--I mean, I am sure heads of state don’t have time to devote to writing, but I could have easily cut out tv watching, for instance. (Or drinking. My god, in my 20’s, I could have gained a lot of time by not going to bars--not that I spent all my time there drinking, I did a lot of dancing and socializing, too, but still. How much socializing do you need to do in bars? Less than I did, I assure you.)

For a long time, I thought lack of confidence was my problem. I could not sit down and write because I didn’t have anything interesting to say. I would write three sentences, become convinced they were the worst examples of uninspired dreck ever written and give it up for the day, or the week, or the month or the year. Why sit down to write at all when it would just be awful? Reading good literature made it even worse. I would be so inspired to write something of my own, but convinced that everyone had already used up all the good ideas. When there is already an Ursula K. Le Guin or a Chris Moriarty or a Rachel Swirsky or a Charles Stross in the world writing, why should I bother?

(Imagine a break here where I write down the name of many, many writers that I admire, then erase them all in a fit of depression, plus the realization the list isn’t actually that interesting to read....)

But then, I went to the doctor and got some magic pills effective medication to treat my lifelong issues with attention, and I discovered that focus was really the biggest problem. When I sit down at the computer and write anything at all, it gets easier. The blank page is the hardest part. I also let go of the thought that anything I write will be any good at first, and realized that is not a problem. That is what revision is for!

I began to get more serious about writing. I followed authors that I like on twitter and started reading blogs directed at writers, to get in the right frame of mind. I realized that writers write, and I just needed to write something down, anything at all. I started writing more on my blog, just to get myself going. I began writing at www.gamingangels.com, just to have a weekly goal. When I would have random ideas of things I would like to write about during the day, I made a note for later, and I went back and read those notes. I picked a character and wrote two random sentences to start my fiction writing going.

I discovered something powerful through all of this. Once I started writing, it got easier. Not that writing itself is easy, but my mindset changed, and it became easier to actually sit down and write. Now, when I read interesting news articles, I think about how the story might affect my fictional world, or how to express my reaction coherently in a blog post, rather than just passively taking in the information. I discovered that having a writing habit feeds itself. I miss writing when I am doing other things, and I do *something* writing related every day, even if it is just making a list of questions I want to answer.

In the traditional sense, I am by no means a professional writer. No one pays me for my writing (unless you count emails at work, which I don’t really). I did find this article interesting, though. By the definition that Kirkland sets out, I am getting close to being a professional, even though there is no pay on the horizon. I write every day, and I am getting closer to a real writing schedule. I am not yet at the point where I have a regular routing to my writing, or a word count goal, but I am getting closer.

To that end, I am coming up with some goals for myself:
  • 3 posts on my personal blog per week
  • 1 Pulp Angels post every week
  • 1000 words of fiction per week

I know, that last goal is a bit wimpy. That one is the hardest for me, though, and I don’t want to intimidate myself too much. I anticpate that it will go up soon.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Quick menu

I have been working on a blog post about cooking and menu planning with past menus as illustrations, but it is taking me forever. I keep not wanting to hunt down the links, and then I don’t want to put up newer menus, because I should catch up first. Today, I just decided to start where I am, so here is a quick menu for this week:

Last night: Grilled goat cheese, arugula, and kalamata olive mayo sandwiches, salad, butternut squash soup
I need to use up the arugula and lettuce in my garden, as we are getting past the spring stage now. The kids will had plain grilled cheese, by my mother and I had the full flavor sandwich, based on this idea I got from Apartment Therapy’s The Kitchn blog.

Tonight Rosemary chicken with white beans
I will be adding sauteed zucchini and carrots to this, and possibly some onion and garlic, because everything seems to be better with onions and garlic

Wednesday: French lentils with walnuts and goat cheese, broccoli and carrot frittata, sliced peaches or apples

Thursday: Meatballs in applesauce with rice and broccoli
We will use about half the amount of beef, but maybe the same amount of sauce; I like the sauce over the rice. We will also probably mix rice and quinoa for the base.

Friday: pizza
I am going to use the Easy Whole grain flat bread recipe from Food Matters as the base, and make a couple of different kinds of pizza--maybe one pepperoni and one goat cheese with veggies.

Nothing too exciting, but it should get us through the week...