Back to Aldi!

Since around 3rd or 4th grade, my Mom did all the grocery shopping for the family (of four) at Aldi. It’s part of why I love reusable bags and self-checkout lanes. She would actually get most of the groceries put in the crate and bags as they got rung up so we barely had to pack anything before heading out. But that was back when they rang everything up by hand. They’re too fast for that now.

The Aldi logo

Anyway. I had been trying to incorporate Aldi in our grocery routine, but things just kept not happening. They don’t have everything that we need – for one reason or another – so we would end up at other stores, and slowly Aldi would fall out of rotation. Or we would head out to go grocery shopping after they closed for the day and we couldn’t go.

Now, I’m working Aldi back into my grocery habit. Which is taking a little bit of work. We have a pretty nice Kroger across the way, which is really convenient. Well, convenient for time, not for my wallet. Also, now that my hubby is at work later and I’m actually home every day, I get to eat whatever I want for dinner four days a week! I get to have broccoli or green beans or almost any other green vegetable that you can cook! I can have chicken as much as I want! I can eat what I want when I’m hungry for it!

But I still have the same grocery budget and the same space in fridge, freezer, and pantry for my food. Just this week, I’ve made two trips to Aldi to pick up a few things to help me get through the week and I’ve spent less than $15 total. I’ve bought a whole chicken, a dozen eggs – in a paper carton, not Styrofoam!!!! – a carton of organic milk, a pack of three zucchini, pasta sauce, and a box of rotini. If I had gone anywhere else, I would have definitely spent over $15 for all of that. Even better, some of that will be carried over into next week, reducing my cost!

If you’re married to specific brands, you’re not going to be able to get everything at Aldi. But, it is a great place to get your staples taken care of, and possibly some other things, reducing your overall grocery cost. Also, Aldi has been working to have more and more organic and healthy options at their lower costs, making it even easier to stay on budget!

Almost done

Tomorrow is when my final two assignments for the semester are due. Tomorrow by 2:30p, I will have finished my coursework for my PhD. Not only is the semester almost done, but I am almost done with this part of my studies. It’s both scary and exciting at the same time.

Once I finish this semester, until I find the time and money to take one last class to finish my certificate, everything is going to be about the dissertation. This summer means focusing on my prospectus and preparing for preliminary exams. Prelims take up the first half-ish of the semester, followed by the prospectus defense. The goal is to be ABD (all but degree) by spring semester next year.

Part of me can’t believe I’m finishing my fourth year of graduate school. One approach I am trying to take with all of this is drawing from a friend’s perspective on this whole thing called grad school: I get to do this. I get to write about Hamilton and why it has become this global phenomenon. With the exception of the prelims, I’m trying to remind myself that I get to write about stuff instead of I have to write about stuff. It does help.

Picture reads:
Today, my professor said something that entirely reframed my thinking about grad school: "how lucky are we to have two whole hours just to discuss ideas, when everyone else is working?"
Grad school is hard- so hard- but I'm so fortunate to be able to do this.

That is the thing I am going to miss the most about this process. Getting to sit around a table or in a classroom with other graduate students and our professor and talk for 3 hours. It has helped me understand the readings we have so much. And, I have made wonderful friends in the process.

Despite having to constantly find a new job for the school year, a job for the summer, and budgeting my student loan money so I can do my research and present it at conferences, I would not have changed things for the world. It is definitely worth it.

Hooked on a new tea

So, as you all know, I love my Adagio teas. But, while I was in NYC, I was introduced to Celestial Seasonings’ Red Zinger tea. I was hooked at the first cup. There was something about the combination of ingredients in this herbal tea that created such an intriguing taste. It’s bold, deep, rich, and I can’t get enough!

When I got back home, I started checking the shelves for it so I could make it at home. Despite being a signature tea of the brand, no one around me carried it. I was so frustrated. So when I was in Columbus on Friday, I decided to search on their site to see where it was sold there. Thankfully Whole Foods, Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, and Raisin Rack all carry it. After I was done with my grocery shopping, I made a beeline for the nearest Whole Foods and got two boxes – it was on sale – allowing me to keep one box at home and take one to work.

Best decision ever! I haven’t wanted to have any of the raspberry tea I had been habitually drinking before the trip. It’s getting me to drink more fluids that have no sugar in them. And I’m pretty sure the ingredients are agreeing with my body because I’m feeling so good! I’m on my second cup at work today. It’s so easy to make and drink. I think I found another habit I can keep going and not give up on!

Loving my B.O.G.s!

Like I said earlier, I am working on changing habits of mine for the better. One thing I realized was how out of whack my eating habits were for my body. I’ve been more conscious about my portions, and I’ve been feeling so much better! I’ve been eating less but not feeling hungry. And if I am, I listen to it and try to figure out the best way to satisfy that hunger. I’m also not beating myself up over any time I overeat. It doesn’t help anything. Like, last week I picked up a box of chocolate-filled Pączki. I had never seen chocolate Pączki before! I had two of them that day. I really shouldn’t have, but I did. So what!

One other thing that I knew I needed to change was to get more greens in my diet again. At first, I just picked up a package of salad from the store. It worked, but, as usual, I was having to pick out the good pieces and throw out the ones that were going bad each time I wanted a salad. I am getting so tired of it. So I decided to make a change.

On Friday, I was down in Columbus to pick up my comics and I decided to do some grocery shopping. I took advantage of the wonderful variety of fresh greens available to me to build a salad mixture that doesn’t get stuffed into a plastic container. I bought green leaf lettuce, kale, and a container of baby arugula. I also picked up some avocados and fresh limes and lemons. Up until now, I had relied on the little plastic limes and lemons to squeeze that juice on my salads. But I decided to try fresh lemon and I was in love. It’s so much sweeter and is just so delicious. I’m not going back to those plastic limes and lemons anymore!

Once I got home, I got out my salad spinner, and put in about half the pack of arugula and saved the rest for next week. I chopped up the lettuce and added most of it in. Then I chopped up about half of the kale and finalized my mix. It is delicious! So much better than anything I could have bought. That is the basis of my B.O.G.s.

B.O.G. is my acronym for Bowl Of Greens. I’ll take two handfuls of my mix, squeeze 1/4 of a lemon over it, and drizzle some EVOO on top. That’s it. I used to think I needed more, especially cheese, on top, but I don’t!

Sometimes I do mix it up to make a meal out of it. I’ll take one handful of the mix, drizzle on a little EVOO, add a chopped up avocado – yes, an entire avocado – squeeze half a lime on top, and add a little pink salt. It’s delicious! That gives me a great balance and enough food to keep me full until dinner. And, it travels really well! I made one today, the first day back for the semester, and I am good. I haven’t had any cravings for a snack, but I know I’ll be ready for some dinner before class tonight. And, it’s bringing a whole new set of nutrients into my regular diet. I’ve only been enjoying my B.O.G.s for about a week, but I’m already feeling so much better. I think this is a habit I can keep going! I definitely won’t give up!

Don’t give up

I have always had trouble forming habits that help me out. I have created study schedules and rarely follow them. I buy healthy foods and end up eating highly processed flour and sugar. But I don’t give up. I do look at what didn’t work the last time and try something different – so it’s not insanity. But I don’t give up.

Last week I was in NYC for BroadwayCon. I was presenting my autoethnography about being a Hamilton fan. The con was Friday-Sunday. I stayed until Tuesday so I could do some exploration around NYC. That’s not the point of this post, though.

While I was there, I stayed with family. Family who welcomed me into their home, but didn’t fuss over me. They continued to live their lives around me and I tried to be as unobtrusive as possible. It was wonderful! They also have habits that I have been striving toward having for a while now.

For example: I did not see a single paper towel in their entire place. It was all cloth. It made me realize that it is really easy to live without paper towels. I’ve always been worried about staining towels and washcloths. I’ve been worried that using them will ruin them. I don’t know why. But spending almost a week without a roll of paper towels hanging around helped me to realize that it’s okay to use cloth towels, to let the washcloths get stained. That’s why they’re there! So, on my way home Thursday night, I decided to stop at Big Lots! and get some more. We have kitchen towels, but not many, and some of them aren’t great at actually getting things dry. I made sure the towels I picked up are 100% cotton so they’ll actually absorb things. I even picked up more washcloths to make sure we’d have plenty. I don’t think I’ve reached for a paper towel since then. Considering I was using them to dry my hands at every turn, this is a good thing. I’m not giving up.

Another habit I picked up while I was there was eating better. The way I am built, I know that I am never going to be considered “skinny.” And I’m fine with that. I just want to be happy with the person I see in the mirror. My hubby loves me no matter what I look like, which is wonderful. But I want to loose weight. I want to be slimmer and healthier in my own opinion. I know I have a family history of diabetes linked to weight. I want to avoid that. While I was in NYC, I was definitely walking more than usual, but I was also eating in ways that made me feel better. It’s not that I had banned myself from eating certain things. I had banana bread multiple times from Starbucks, along with various teas. I had Snickerdoodles and chocolate chip cookies at their place. It was more about portions than contents. I was eating enough to satisfy my hunger, not eating until I couldn’t eat anymore. Or eating so there wouldn’t be leftovers.

I noticed it during the trip, but it’s come into sharper relief when I got home. So many things are not meant for only two people to eat. And I’m not the greatest about eating leftovers. Also, when the two people prefer different portion sizes, it leads to leftovers. I’m still working on how to deal with that. But when it comes to my lunches, when I’m the only one eating, I’m working on it. I’m not giving up.

One of the most important things I learned while I was gone is that I have not been drinking enough, especially water. I’ve been drinking Gold Peak raspberry tea cut 1:1 with their unsweetened tea for a bit now. Usually, I have been drinking it to get that bit of sweet and keep me from drinking Pepsi. But, while I was gone, I didn’t have it with me. And I didn’t miss it. I was drinking water or Red Zinger or tea from Starbucks. It made me realize that I don’t need it. I don’t need that source of sugar – and it is sugar, not HFCS. It helped me remember to make use of the many, many teas I have at home for those times when I don’t want just a glass of water. I even took a travel mug in to the office so I would drink more tea there. I’m not giving up.

It looks like I’ve found my mantra for this year: “Don’t give up.” I’m not. Even the smallest changes build up to the big ones. Be patient. Something will work, even if it’s not the whole thing.

What I learned from DragonCon: 2018 edition

This is so late! I didn’t realize I hadn’t published it!

Another year, another CPAC, another DragonCon.

Every year is different. Every year I make a different experience for myself. It’s not simply a case of different programming each year or different guests. Part of the joy of DragonCon is there is so much happening at any given moment during the con (yes, all 5 days) that you can craft your own unique con experience. Here’s what I learned this year…

Pack a few costumes. I love making costumes. I love dressing up as characters from shows I love and wandering around cons in them. This year I decided not to pack any. I just wore my geeky t-shirts. One night I went out to meet up with my hubby to get some food. I was already in my Deadpool lounge pants instead of shorts. So I decided to throw on sandals, my TARDIS bathrobe, and grabbed a towel from the hotel bathroom. I was quickly recognized as Arthur and even struck up a conversation. It felt good. It reminded me that wearing costumes can indeed be fun. And just because no one says anything about it doesn’t mean they didn’t notice it and think about it. I did that constantly. So I’m going to make sure to pack some costumes as well as enough street clothes to have both options next year. Just because I pack the options, doesn’t mean I have to wear all of them.

Staying in the room is just fine. This has been a rough two weeks. Last week was the start of the semester as well as DragonCon and CPAC. I had planned to get up early on Sunday and get in line for the Peter Capaldi and Pearl Mackie panel to start my day. I decided sleep was better and took my time getting ready to head over for the Anne of Green Gables panel. After spending an hour wiping tears from my eyes (tears that are returning at the memory) being in the same room as my Anne, I decided to head back to the room. I ended up just hanging out in the room for most of the day. It felt good. I needed some self-care time. Just because you are at the con doesn’t mean you have to be out at it all the time. If you need to, take time for yourself. The point is to enjoy yourself.

Save money before you go. Through as series of annoyances that ate what little money I had left, I was broke for DragonCon. I mean that if I didn’t have a wonderful, caring husband, I wouldn’t have been able to go. I’m going to start setting aside a specific amount of money each month so when DragonCon 2019 rolls around I’ll have enough to at least eat if not have some spending money too.

Knitting Geek: Mark’s Scarf

December 24th, 9pm Eastern Standard Time. From here on in I shoot without a script. See if anything comes of it, instead of my old shit.

I have been a fan of Rent since I was introduced to it in 1997, my freshman year of high school. I have been trying to make a Mark scarf for a few years now. Last year I started to try to make one for BroadwayCon, but when I ended up not going, I ditched it. Well, I finally got it done, in time for BroadwayCon! And here’s the pattern:

Mark’s Scarf

Supplies:
Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Sport: Midnight Heather (MH) – 3 skeins, White (W) – 2 skeins
US5 straight needles

Pattern:
CO 50 MH
Knit in stockinette stitch for 28 rows.
Switch to W and continue for 28 rows.
Continue until you reach a total of 17 stripes.
Knit half a stripe of W (14 rows).
BO W.

Notes: Obviously, adjust for size. You don’t want the scarf to hang too low or hit too high up. Feel free to omit the white half stripe. The pictures don’t always show a white half stripe, so go with what version you want. Also, I used a slip stitch at the end of the rows for a more even edge.

Block out your scarf by soaking it in a sink of warm water and a small amount of mild soap for 5 minutes. Rinse it in cold water gently until the water runs clear. Be as gentle as possible while it is in the sink. Lay it out on a towel (layering as necessary) and roll it up to gently squeeze the excess water out without stretching the scarf. Unroll the towel and transfer the scarf to another towel, laid out the way you want it to look, and place it on a flat surface to dry. I use my ironing board because it allows air to move on both sides.

A dark blue and white striped scarf laid out across pillows and a couch to show length.

Add the fringe once your scarf is completely dry. Cut 4 18-inch lengths of MH yarn and place the tassel between the second and third stitches of the second row. Skip two stitches and do the same. Continue until you reach the end. Note: If this feels too crowded, you can space it out more. But the fringe on the scarves tends to be thick.
Do the same thing on the other end.

Dark blue and white striped scarf with long dark blue fringe wound so it is in fourths laying on a blue background.

You’re done! Go have fun and make money to pay your rent!!

The same scarf as above, but with the long fringe in the foreground, hanging off the edge of the couch, kind of blending in with the blue of the couch.

Successful Sunday Shopping!

Every year for Christmas, one of my presents from my father-in-law includes money to go spend on myself. Fun stuff, no paying bills. It’s a tradition that my mother-in-law’s father started with her. He would do the same thing. My father-in-law has kept this up. Sometimes it’s cash, sometimes it’s an Amazon gift card. Sometimes it’s both. This year it was both.

Yesterday, I decided to take a quick trip to Columbus to make use of my cash. First was a stop at the jaw-dropping newly remodeled Jo-Ann’s up at Polaris. If you are in the Columbus area and you haven’t been, go! It is amazing! Anyway, I picked up 5 frames that I have really needed. I have had three 11×17 pieces, an 8.5×11, and a 6×9 that needed frames. So I finally got them! Well, actually I got a 8×10 floating frame for my 6×9 piece since it’s kind of an off size. I also got some fabric and spray paint for a costume. Now I just need to put in the work and it’ll be done!

The better things happened next when I went to a few local businesses. I know I was late, but Small Business Sunday works too! I stopped by my comic book store to pick up my pull and ended up with a trade paperback recommended by one of the wonderful staff members. We were talking about X-Men and how we are so tired of all these crossovers. She suggested a one-off story about the worst X-Man ever. I’m looking forward to reading it.

After that I was going to go down to Lucky’s Market when I decided to stop at a local consignment store, Rag-O-Rama to look for jeans. It’s a great store. I started looking through my size in the men’s pants section and found myself not one, but two pair of jeans for less than $40! This doubled my amount of jeans in my wardrobe. Then I decided to check the women’s section for some tan/khaki pants for the costume I mentioned earlier. I found a pair that stretch, so they fit to my legs, which is what I was looking for, but they’re not tight (they’re actually a little big)! I couldn’t believe that I found all of this for less than $60!

Finally, to finish off my day of “I can’t believe I found that!” I went on to Lucky’s, mostly because I ran out of body wash. I also picked up a bottle of Rose from an Ohio winery that is so delicious. That reminded me to look in the beer section. When we were up at my father-in-law’s this weekend, we made our usual stop up at the local Malley’s Chocolates to have some dessert and so my father-in-law could restock his ice cream at home. I noticed a six-pack of beer sitting on the candy counter. Turns out that a Cleveland beer company, Platform, was inspired by one of the candies and made a stout. We didn’t have time to get some before we headed home, but they also have a brewery in Columbus, so Lucky’s probably would have them. They do! And, after looking around carefully, I found it! It was the perfect end to my shopping trip. I got to spend so much on myself and then found something for the both of us. It was a great way to go into the Christmas holiday!

More Matcha!

For over a year now, I have had a tin of matcha from Adagio teas. I haven’t used it because I’m scared I’ll screw it up, and I know how not cheap a tin is. I recently ordered a pack of their Sticks, one tube can easily be dumped into a 12oz bottle and shaken up resulting in matcha.

That got me wondering. Is there something different about that tea from the tins? I finally remembered to Google it today. Guess what? There’s not! I found The Many Joys of Coldbrew Matcha which says I just need to do what the stick box says: put about 1 tsp into 16oz of water, shake, and enjoy! So I’m going to keep the sticks at work, and use my tin here at home. It’ll be nice to finally use the tin, as well as have nice cold matcha here at home as well as at school. I’m looking forward to having money to get some of Adagio’s different flavors and give them a go.

Searching for Work-Life-School Balance

Life has been crazy lately. Last week the second year of my PhD began. So did my new job as a Graduate Assistant at the Writing Center. And it was also DragonCon and CPAC. Now that things have settled down, I’m realizing how much of a mess these past two weeks have been with everything going on.

There is a reason why I do not work on Fridays. Twice a week I have work for 6 hours, tutoring for 2 hours, and a total of at least 2.5 hours in the car. The other two days I have work, tutoring, and class until 9pm. And the 2.5 hours in the car. I am on campus for between 8 and 11 hours four days a week, not including any extra time I can find to do work for myself. This is the first day I’ve had off in the past two weeks. I was going to go into work today to make up for not being there Tuesday because we didn’t get home until 30 min before I should have been at work.

But when I woke up today, I couldn’t do it.

I just needed the time to recover and to start working on what I need to have done for class on Monday. I need time to drink tea. I need time to eat a huge bowl of salad. I need time to get my office/room cleaned up and organized. I need time to get caught up on the dishes. I need time to unpack from DragonCon. I need time to work on getting the apartment in order. I need time to write this. I need time to work on finding a work/life/school balance.

I’m hoping that by getting things sorted this weekend I’ll be able to move forward in a balanced manner. But taking the time to recognize that I can’t push myself and that I need that time is the first step. You can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself.