It’s Holiday Time

This is merely a post to let my readers know that I am on vacation (Just returned from Austria and headed to London tomorrow), hence the lack of posts.

Having said that, travel blogs soon to come: Vienna, Cancelled Flights, London, and European Trip Tips.

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Ma’am, Sir, and Nah

I was raised to respect my elders. Every woman heard, “yes, ma’am” or “no, ma’am” and every man heard “yes, sir” or “no, sir.” It was how my sisters and I were taught to respond when asked a question or how we finished our replies. Today, I hear “nah”, “yeah”, and “mm” from kids more than ma’am and sir.

I’m not about to insist that the lack of this gesture is what is wrong with kids today. Nor am I going to suggest that if these words of reaped were used that this generation wouldn’t have the problems they do. What I am going to propose is this: If you teach children to respect adults when they are young, you will see that continue in their adult life. And that could change the direction of the youth of this generation.

* Whether you teach sir, ma’am, please or thank you- instill respect when a child is young and they will show that respect as an adult.

* Allowing a child to speak to adults with anything less than respect only sows seeds of disrespect for their future.

* If you don’t demonstrate respect to others in your life, your kids will adopt that lack of respect no matter what you tell them.

FOOD: Apple Butter Chicken in the Crock Pot

So my menu for the week was complete and my husband set out to shop for the groceries needed as I finished chores around the house. He returned, we put everything away, and dinner was planned for the week.
When I got home from work Tuesday, I began pulling out the items I needed for that night’s dinner: Orange Chicken. No marmalade. So I began looking for other options and saw the Apple Butter in the door of the refrigerator. I don’t know if anyone else has come up with this, but below is the recipe I used to make a wonderful, sweet chicken dish.

INGREDIENTS:
12 chicken thighs
1 package of chicken broth powder
A jar of Apple Butter
Season All

I started by placing a slow cooker liner in the bottom of my crock pot. (Love these guys- they make clean up super easy) I then placed all the chicken in the crockpot and sprinkled Season All over each piece.

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Then I dolloped a spoonful for Apple Butter on each piece of chicken and mixed 8 ounces of hot water with 1 package of Chicken Broth powder and added that to the crock pot.

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Ensure the broth does not submerge the chicken, but there is enough to keep it moist while cooking.

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Add more Apple Butter and cover the chicken.

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Set the Crock Pot to low and cook for 4 hours.

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When done, remove chicken and place in a serving dish.

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*Suggestion: Serve with Broccoli and Rice Au Gratin.
** Do not use the remaining Apple Butter to avoid cross-contamination.

The Poetry of the Apple

I would love to hear everyone’s opinion about this post from Reflections of Hiz Image. I have been trying to wrap my head around it and just…. hmm. Thoughts anyone?
~To inhizimage (the author), what were you thinking/feeling?

Reflections of His Image

She sat the phone down, another conversation ended. Her thoughts began to inundate her now quiet mind and so she found little tasks to occupy her the rest of the day. She would do the dishes, wipe the counters, dust the furniture, clean each bathroom, wash, dry, fold and put away the clothes and sweep the house. Outside, she pulled all of the new weeds; swept the porch…the driveway…the sidewalk…the neighbor’s sidewalk. She began picking up the rocks that were scattered about out of her garden and returned them to their rightful places.
Dinner was elaborate as she kept herself focused on keeping busy. More menial responsibilities were tended to and the hours slowly elapsed.
Her bath was long and welcomed, but the thoughts that accompanied it were not. Moments of tears swelling up in her eyes as her loneliness began to invade her relaxing moment moved her out of…

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Steadfast

I married a runner; stupid me. He not only ran well (in other words, he didn’t look like he was dying like I did when he ran), but he ran fast. This proved to be too intimidating for me in the beginning of our marriage, so whenever I decided I wanted to get in shape, I avoided running.

In 2008 I had an epiphany: I had never seen a fat person run a marathon. (This was important to me because at the time I was overweight, lazy, and unmotivated) This ah-ha moment was the catalyst to my taking up running. I shunned the intimidation, the ignored the idea of how silly I looked when I ran, and gave myself a goal to reach for instead of just “going for a run” —  I added a marathon to my bucket list.

So, the running began.  Correction: the jogging began. I literally could have walked faster than I was moving, so to call it running would be incorrect. But I moved. I got out day after day and stayed determined to increase my distance and speed.

Well, we moved. With any move, changes happen: you change jobs, you change friends, you change habits… and my workout plan at that point was just a good habit.  Not only did we move, we changed countries.

Hal Higdon's Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide

When I first arrived in Germany I couldn’t help but notice that there were running and biking paths everywhere! No excuses; I was back on the plan within months. This time I changed things by finding a marathon (2010 Paris Marathon to be exact) and signing up- I was committed (or just lost 55 Euro.)

I bought myself a book (Hal Higdon’s “Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide” (Click on the book to go to his website to purchase), changed my diet (nothing formulated, I just cut out the candy bars, sodas, and junk), and started following his plan.

I ran.

I ran.

I ran.

Before too long, I ran 8 miles one night after work. Read that again – after working all day, I ran 8 miles! Yeah, I kept looking at my GPS over and over again in disbelief. I was a runner!

Well, without going into the rest of my training, I ran Paris that cold April morning in 2010, but at mile 7 had to start walking. Ultimately, I had to catch the injured bus and watch at the finish line while all the runners came in- to include my husband. (Yeah, that hurt a little) The doctors would tell me four days later I had torn my meniscus.

So, a wonderful excuse presented itself to stop running. The prospect of repeating the injury was high; the pain associated kept me off the trails and treadmill for more than six months; and I was devastated by my failure at Paris.

A year would go by and I was going to the gym to keep the weight off, but avoided running. Circuits was my new “thing,” but it, too was just a habit. In my heart, I wanted to run. I wanted to finish a race. I would occasionally get on the treadmill or go for a short (3 mile run) and it felt so good!

I bought myself a TRU-FIT IT Band brace and hit the trails again. I ran smart; I would keep to the soft trails, keep it short and work up gradually, and I always warmed up my legs prior to setting out. It was working; I was back up to six miles and decided I was going to run a half marathon. (I probably should have started with this race instead of the big enchilada – hind sight)

Munich Half Marathon Medal 2013

October 13, 2013, I finished the Munich Half Marathon. It wasn’t pretty; I wasn’t in the top of my age group; it wasn’t even my PR. I made plenty of mistakes the day before which resulted in a slow pace, painful legs, and ultimately passing out at the train station afterwards. Nevertheless, I finished.

Steadfast – AKA: stubborn – brought me to reaching for something I never thought I could do. I haven’t completed a full marathon yet, but I’m halfway there. No matter how many setbacks I have, I will continue to run, increase my mileage, strengthen my legs, and keep my eye on that bucket list item.

Truth is, if you’re steadfast enough, you really can do what you set your mind to accomplish.

Project Management Part II

Image

Today I conducted the training I talked about in Part I. To say it was successful would be a lie, but to say my forethought and experience made it better than it could have been is exactly why I’m writing this. 

I showed up this morning to the venue with my ducks in a row. I places my training folders at each desk, provisioned my Common Access Card (CAC) with the training center, and set up my notes at the front of the room. 

Time to boot up the computer, pull up my slides, and log onto the platform we would use. Students begin to trickle in and I point them in the direction of the training coordinator to provision their CACs. I greet students while trying to log on to the shared drive…. (Why isn’t it logging on to the shared drive?) The coordinator tells me I cannot access our shared drive because it’s not mapped. I call up my IT guy and ask him to map it; he explains he tried and can’t, they must be on a different bridge. *Someone shot one of my ducks* 

Thinking fast (and being prepared), I ask my IT guy to go into our shared drive where I have saved all of my teaching material and e-mail me all the documents. He does. Yay! All students are seated and provisioned by now and I begin the process of downloading all documents to the desktop.

I allow the computer to do its thing and I begin my introduction, pointing out the restrooms and that no food is allowed, and I explain all of the items in their training folder. BING With everything downloaded, I double-click on the main presentation to show and

“Shutting down”

What? Why? Wait!

*Apparently it’s duck season*

The entire screen went black, the computer shut down, and the students looked to me to let them go home early. (No! I am prepared) I retrieve the training coordinator from her office, explain what happened, she calls another IT person, and they begin working to fix the problem. In the meantime, I go over some of the material the students have as hand-outs. By the time I’m finished, the coordinator moves us to a new classroom, transfers my training material and brings it up on the screen, and the students are ready to learn.

And learn they did, because I had a back-up plan (which you should always have when dealing with technology – or any project for that matter.) So in part one we learned to take notes when starting a project: this helps with subsequent projects and learning the process of managing projects in general. Part two’s lesson: Have a back-up plan.

Two-week Pause

I don’t imagine anyone is putting up balloons, streamers, and signs, but I’ve completed two weeks straight of blogging and so…. I’m going to take a pause. I’m in the middle of a coffee fast, I’m training employees tomorrow and Friday both, and just successfully created my first fishtail braid, so a pause is definitely in order.

My first fishtail braid
My first fishtail braid

You can find great instructions on how to do the fishtail braid here:

http://www.glamour.com/beauty/blogs/girls-in-the-beauty-department/2012/02/get-nicoles-braid.html

Menus- How and Why

March 2014 Menu

Let me start by saying, yes that is my real menu and what’s for dinner at my house this month. (Feel free to use it if you want – just click on it to make it larger) With that said, there is a reason I use a menu like this (well, two actually): It allows me to see my carb/protein ratio and meat selections throughout the week and that helps me save money and eat right.

With the ‘why’ out of the way, let’s quickly get to how to make a menu like this. You’re going to need some recipes. The first thing I do is pull out my go-to recipes that everyone in the family loves and can make. The reason is, if I put difficult-to-make items on the menu, my kids (all teenagers) will justify not being able to make dinner when I ask them to; however, if I put items on there I know they can (and will) make, that’s one less battle for dinner.

With go-to recipes pulled, I add them to the menu in an order that doesn’t repeat my proteins. (Chicken, chicken, beef, Chicken, Chicken is not my idea of a week of variety) I also watch my side items and ensure carb counts aren’t too high and balance the protein for the night. Finally, I consider my schedule at work and during the week in general. (You’re not going to find difficult-to-make meals on Monday nights)

So, I plot the go-to meals throughout the  month so the kids are getting their share of the duty. (This is a great thing for teenagers to learn how to do – cook dinner!) Then, I add some ‘harder’ meals and provide the directions right on the menu. (Our menu is posted in the kitchen where all can see – again, no excuses for dinner not being made)

Finally, I reward my awesome menu-making with some ‘easiest’ nights: Order in pizza, store-bought items, and eating out. These are the most expensive purchases in the end, so they are limited, but scattered so I feel the wonderfulness that they are ever so often and am grateful … ahhh. Limiting such items saves money and having a plan when I shop does, as well.

(I do not plan my Saturdays because that is grocery shopping day and normally I will cook something that I can double. Then I freeze half and have the rest for Saturday night dinner. *Stay tuned for freezer meals* We don’t plan Sunday night meals because we attend TAG that night where dinner is served.)

Project Management Part 1

Obviously, by the “Part 1” after the title, this is the start of a series I am going to write about. Unfortunately, I cannot promise the series is going to be blogged consecutively. The reason is simple, my mind is not simple. Ha! *Ahem* Sorry, but that is just the truth. Nevertheless, a blog about managing projects (not series.)

Slide1

Not only do I manage projects at work, I also have three teenagers which require quite a bit of management and plenty of projects. So, although I won’t say I’m an expert at Project Management, I do have some advice, tips and tricks. This is part 1.

At work, I just finished a project where I built training for software we use to get approvals and task assignments. It was a  three month project and Monday, when the training is given, will tell whether or not the project was successful. However, the build was definitely a lot easier than the first time. I have completed multiple projects and the reason is gets easier is the same reason most things you do repeatedly do – practice makes perfect (or permanent, so be careful.)

Just as in riding a bike, the more projects you develop and manage, the more you learn how to do so. So my first bit of advice for project management is this: Take notes.

I recently had an Administrative Specialist come on board and I set out to teach him everything I knew about his field (because I once sat in his chair and he didn’t have a strong admin background.) One of the first things I noticed was that he didn’t take notes when I told him something. He continued to ask the same questions about the same processes, and they could have all been answered had he taken notes.

When you are in the process of learning something – like project management – the more notes you take, the more resource you will have to draw from. Yeah, you can Google something, you can call a friend, you can use a lifeline (oh wait! No you can’t). Taking notes allows you to re-teach yourself (in a way you understand because you’re the one who wrote the notes).

So take notes!

The Gym Routine

Gym Routine

So almost every weekday I wake up at 0430, pull my hair into a ponytail, drink 8 ounces of water, grab my gym bag, my purse, and my breakfast and walk out the door to head to the gym. I am either running, doing circuits, or lifting weights. I have quite a routine after all these years and this morning, I remembered my first couple of months and how hard it was to begin. So… I give you my tips, tricks, and tell-all about starting a gym routine.

CAVEAT: I work full-time; if you don’t, you probably have a little more time on your hands than my blog is for, but then again, maybe you don’t.

Years ago, when I first decided (or maybe I should say my pudgy stomach decided for me) to start going to the gym, I was scared. Scared of forgetting a piece of clothing; scared of taking too long and being late for work; scared of not having shower shoes, make-up, or a blow dryer – it was all fear of the unknown. The first time I went to the gym it took me three hours to pack my bag because I kept going through my head, thinking I forgot this-or-that, and then going back to it and re-packing it. Silly.

The second week, after a weekend of rest of recovery, I forgot my bra the first day (I hate Mondays), I forgot my towel the third day, and I forgot my  make-up the fourth. {That I returned to the gym the following week – or that many days in a row of mistakes – really is amazing in itself} Regardless, I knew I needed a gym routine or I would procrastinate working out till it was too late.

Finally I sat down and wrote up everything I needed to go to the gym before work. (You can do the same for wherever you go after working out.) I came up with the following:

  • Towel(s) and washcloth
  • Soap and shampoo
  • Shower shoes
  • Business outfit
  • Business shoes
  • underwear (bra, hosiery or socks, and panties)
  • toiletries (deoderant, make-up, comb/brush, blow dryer, hair accessories)
  • Headphones and iPod
  • Knee brace (tore my miniscus during the Paris marathon in 2010)
  • Water bottle

I’m not one of those gym-goers that needs a fancy bag, so I have a regular 3-compartment backpack (large) that I use. I put my work shoes and toiletry holder (a cute, mesh doodad that hold my soap, shampoo, and dry washcloth) at the bottom of the large compartment. On top of that goes my two towels (I have long hair) and my blow dryer and water bottle.

In the middle (smaller) compartment I place my make up bag that also holds my hair accessories and my underwear. And in the front compartment I put my iPod and earphones, plus my knee brace. There are also hooks in multiple places on the outside of the bag and I strap my knee brace around one and hang my shower shoes off another.

I then hang my outfit in the backseat of my car the night before and put the gym bag on the floor in front of it. Off to bed I go after setting my alarm for 4:30am.

In the morning, it’s a matter of getting out of bed, putting on my work-out outfit and shoes, drinking 8 ounces of water, and getting my things for work. I always eat yogurt and a banana for breakfast, so I grab those and put them in a cool bag and place that in my purse/bag (it’s a large purse, but it hold files, lunch, and sometimes two water bottles.) I fill the two aforementioned water bottles and add them to the bag before heading to the bathroom.

I do my morning thing, pulling my hair into a high ponytail, brush my teeth, put my gym shoes on (which I keep in the shoe cabinet by the front door) and head out the door. It takes me 25 minutes to get from bed to car.

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