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A Day of Catching Up

Another long and busy week of teaching, grading and advancing  my research.  I am really enjoying each one of these but they do take a lot out of me.  By the end of the day yesterday, I was really ready for a break.  I have so much on my plate right now that I haven’t been allowing myself any time off in weeks, working while eating, through evenings and even in bed until I fall asleep.  Every morning I wake up, think of what I have to do, prioritize what needs to be done that day, make  a list and then get up and get going.  It’s non-stop until I fall asleep over my books many hours later.

Last night I decided to give myself the night off, which really only started at 8:30pm when I got home.  I treated myself to a non-local bottle of red wine.  It’s probably  not ideal to reward myself with things that go against what I’m trying to achieve, but I really love a good Australian Shiraz and there’s simply nothing local that compares.  I toyed with buying an organic wine but couldn’t justify the expense.  I will only be drinking a little of this bottle and the rest will end up as cooking wine.  So paying $25-30 for one or two glasses of wine is just not in my budget.  I do try find a balance between economics and my values when possible!  I then called a good friend and enjoyed a couple of glasses of wine while catching up like old times.  She used to live down the street and we’d share a bottle of wine and talk until the wee hours in each other’s kitchens.  Now she lives in Québec so we have phone dates.  Phone dates are my only source socializing seeing as my closest friend lives an hour away (other than my roommate, but we hardly see each other these days!).  It was really great to just talk about everything and anything, solving the world’s problems as we always do.

This morning I woke up, thought up my to-do list and got to it.  I really needed to catch up on my basic life chores: cleaning, laundry, running errands, cooking and taking care of the dogs.  I got through the first three items but by the time I finished running errands it was just after 5pm and pitch dark.  The poor dogs got no exercise and I feel bad.  I did bring them with me in the car so they had a change of scene but I’m not sure they really get much out of that.  Mostly they curl up and sleep while I drive around.  I had intended on taking them for a hike on the way home, but I am reticent to go into the woods after dark.  I think it’s illegal anyway (public parks usually close at dark), but I also worry about running into wild animals (skunks, porcupines, coyotes), having the dogs take off chasing deer, or tripping over people drinking in the woods.  Fortunately the dogs are very forgiving, and they will be my first priority tomorrow.  We came home and played soccer in the yard and now I’m getting down to my administrative work.  My energy drops after 4pm, so I save my computer and paper-work for evening by the fire.  The woodstove makes such tasks not altogether unpleasant.

My cooking plans have been postponed until tomorrow as I need to finish grading a set of essays tonight, and also to work on some interview transcriptions.  I am trying to do 2-3 hours a day of dissertation work for the next month to get on top of all I have to do.  Two or three hours a day won’t quite do it, but if I manage that and also a few longer days, I might be where I want to be come the new year.  Specifically, I want to have all my interviews transcribed (at least 100 hours of work), and entered into the analysis software I’m going to be using, and I want to be comfortable with the software so I can start analysing and writing.  That part should be really interesting and I’m looking forward to it.  The interviews I have conducted have been fascinating – every single one of them – and I’m quite excited to see what I make of all the data I have collected.

This morning I cleaned out the fridge in preparation for some cooking.  I had to throw out half of my lovely borscht because I discovered that the meat scraps I put aside for the dogs were quite rancid, which means the meat in the soup likely was as well.  I really should have frozen it!  I am not used to cooking with meat and need to be more careful about how long I leave it.  I will let a veggie soup sit all week and just boil it a bit if it’s old.  But the meat should have been consumed within 3 days, or frozen.  I will remember that for next time.  What a waste!

I have also decided to loosen some of my shopping restrictions to see if that helps with my cooking success.  Some of the problems I have been having is that I have been substituting ingredients that I couldn’t find locally with local items I thought might work, but didn’t.  Now that it is winter and my pantry is largely reduced to cabbage, potatoes, and parsnips, I really need to include a few more internationally produced condiments if I’m going to stay motivated.  So I bought soy sauce, red wine vinegar, coconut milk, fresh ginger and a few other items to (literally) spice up my cuisine.  All are organic, some are fair trade, and I will use them sparingly as they were quite expensive.  But this should allow me to stick more closely to recipes and hopefully have better success.

Because I had to stop eating the borscht mid-week, I have eaten nothing but cheese, bread and summer sausage for the last three days.  I only manage to cook once a week right now, and try to make enough for 6 days of food.  I did still have my pumpkin custard, some sauerkraut (I always have kraut), pickles, yogurt, milk and an oatmeal mix I eat in the morning, but food has been rather plain this week.  Tomorrow I’m going to make several recipes so I have more variety, and freeze the extra to mix in with future weeks’ meal plans down the road.  My plan is to make:

– Parsnip Orange soup (requiring a rule-breaking purchase: one organic orange and a small bottle of Odwalla organic orange juice)

– Cauliflower Cider soup (another rule-breaking purchase: Strongbow cider.  Hopefully it will actually make it in the soup!)

– Corn and Spinach soup (all ingredients will be local, some fresh and some from my freezer)

I am also going to make a new batch of sauerkraut and try two new fermentation projects from the book Wild Fermentation: Sour beets (later to be used in a more traditional borscht recipe he includes in this book) and Korean Kimchi.  The kimchi will be interesting to make as my sister-in-law is Korean and will be able to tell me just how close I come to making the traditional pickle she grew up with.

I am going to get the woodstove going, make the Corn and Spinach soup, and then get back to my grading.  I still have about 5 hours of work on my ‘to-do’ list and it’s already 7pm.  I suspect some of it will need to be be bumped to tomorrow.  I am not sure how much longer this crazy schedule will continue.  I can get a lot done over the holidays, but only if I skip going home and spending time with my family.  We are to spend time in Ithaca again this year, which I would really like to do.  But then I’ll come back to an ever increasing mountain of work, and tremendous stress about trying to finish this dissertation before summer.  I need the break but then the stress will be worse later.  I’m not sure which way to go.  I’ll decide closer to the date, based on how much I’ve been able to accomplish between now and then.  Which means sticking to these daily to-do lists and a longer-term plan I have drafted up for my goals.  Hopefully I can do it!

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