Archive | January 2016

Hectic days

I do not know how and why I have over committed at work. It has been crazy the past few weeks. I have been working week nights as well as weekends. I have so many things that are pressing that needs to be addressed but I decide to just focus on work and get done with it. It is January 26th already, wonder how time flew by this fast.  I crave for that relaxed vacation without the thought of hosting anyone, daily chores, meeting friends or family or attending any events and just have that time to take a step back and give my body and mind much needed rest from all the rat race. Is that a reality? Life is what we make out of it – isn’t? But, that seems like a distant future for me at the moment.

Time and again, I end up focusing on things that does not let me progress in the direction I want to. At the same time, life happens. Time management is an art that can be acquired with due diligence. My brain wanders a lot and has the smallest attention span possible. It loses the interest and obviously momentum.  The best example is – when you are in meeting rooms, I get lost in my own world and suddenly someone calling my name brings me back to my senses, and by the time I respond, the question that was targeted towards me has never reached my brain in the first place.  Does it happen to you?

People at my work leave around 4, well, they come in at 7, and it is fair that they leave at that time. On the other hand, I have been over working from past few days and I am so tempted to leave early and I have to swallow that temptation and divert my attention to get the work done.  I guess today, I will make that exception – come what may, I will get that much needed rest this evening. Rest can be handled tomorrow. Well, I am not a life-saving doctor and my work is not a critically-ill patient ;). I am tired and I need some rest to be productive tomorrow.

How do you deal with tight deadlines and hectic work schedules?

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Books – this year

On an average, I read something or the other all the time. Be it a blog, online newsletter or random articles as my regular routine. Once in a while, I enjoy reading books, preferably fictional. Every time I read a book, my style of writing, vocabulary usage swings in that direction. I tend to frame my sentences better and I like my posts better. It has been such a long gap that I finally had a chance to lay my hands upon a simpler fictional book that I could finish it fairly quickly. I have been lately exposed to chinese or japanese -american authors and their stories as an immigrants to america. Their life, their belief, their struggles, perception, slightly deeper insights into their life style is something that sounds interesting to me at the moment. I read Shangai Girls by Lisa see (based out on chinese immigrants) or Memoirs of Geisha by Arthur Golden (the life of a geisha in Japan) and this year I ended up reading “The Women Warrior” by “Maxine Hong Kingston”.

One resolution I took as part of this year is to read at least a book every month. I have many unfinished books from past few years and I cannot get my mind to go back to start all over again. It takes me few days to few weeks to few months to read a book depending on number of pages, type, time availability and so on. Yes, I can list numerous reasons to avoid. But, when I set this goal out this year and finished reading this book, I felt accomplished. I read this book as a de-stresser which surprised me even further. The workload this year has been seeping into my weekends, week nights as well. This book came at my rescue to divert my mind from routine things.

Reading books, takes me to a world that is new to me and although it is a fiction, there is always something to learn, observe and contemplate upon. Some of them are heavy reads, some light, some thought provocative and some books tends to give introductions to new subject lines. Overall, a goal that is totally attainable, reasonable to take it up.

How about you? I know, many of you are avid readers out there, how would you choose your next book to read? what interests you more? any recommendations for fictions that are cross cultural?

 

Micro fiber cloths vs paper towels

Ever since I came to america, I was relieved to use paper towels for anything and everything. Growing up, we have used just cloth based for everything, one thing that was very handy when stepping out was “Handkerchiefs”, cotton clothes were used for all other necessities.  Fast forward to last decade, we use paper tissues for facial, bath room, cleaning kitchen, floor cleaning, spot cleaning, numerous paper towels were used while cooking/cleaning home. I use a lot. Ever since I started looking at reducing trash, minimalism or becoming responsible for our environment, I have been paying attention to the amount of  paper I consume in my day-to-day life and have conscious decision to reduce the usage and replace it with clothes.

So, in an attempt to reduce my current usage to even further, not only have I started using my old cotton clothes, but also ended up ordering color coded micro-fiber clothes to further aid my decision in cleaning and reinforce re-usability and reduce paper waste. The whole process feels like – been there,done that and conscious decision to go back to my roots with the knowledge gained. Back then, there was no option, now there is a choice and I am choosing more environment friendly option.

I am sure, going back to inconveniences is not something fun, but I am trying to reduce, recycle and reuse things. That way, hopefully some day, I will have minimum amount of things to maintain and deal with. Also, I do not foresee forgoing paper usage, instead, I will research and buy compost able paper towels. Any suggestions here?

I am still discovering all the areas where I could use micro fibers for it’s efficiency. Your suggestions are valuable.

Embracing green living continues… stay tuned as I take steps in those directions.

Home made food – is it a tiresome chore?

The other day, I hung out with a friend of mine and mentioned that she hired a cook who cooks once every week. That has been a great relief for her and how she managed to stay out as she thinks that as chore that she does not enjoy. Since, I complained about how stressful cooking everyday has been and suggested that I hire the same person too.

It got me into thinking – is cooking really that stressful for me or am I bothered by something else?

  1. Grocery shopping – I do not have a car and walk 3 miles every single day to work. So, I just pick up few vegetables every single day through out the week. This has been bothering me, especially stopping by a grocery store every single evening, picking groceries, carrying them home, organizing them in the refrigerator is chore that I really burdensome.
  2. Then cooking 2 different dishes every single day – for simple reason, I love variety and always rack up my brain and browse various websites for recipes.
  3. The most difficult part – cleaning dishes – I create too many dishes to be cleaned, I cook, and on the side I clean, by the time I am done with preparing breakfast, lunch and dinner (yes, three different) for two, It took away at-least 2 hours of my time leaving me beyond exhausted.

Then, why do I prefer home made cooking?

  1. I shop consciously, very rarely do I get processed canned food home for all the health benefits they speak about.
  2. I love to create out-of-my-comfort food dishes apart from my regular one’s. I also use less to no oil and try to not over cook veggies. I am vegetarian by choice and I try to cook with almost every veggie that I can lay my hands on. Sometimes good, at times bad, but overall they are mostly edible.
  3. I compost – have been composting so religiously, the results are yet to come.

How can I save myself from being exhausted?

  1. I recently switched to weekly for fresh-grocery shopping (includes fruits and veggies) and monthly for other required groceries, just like my parents who did on budget. There are always exception, when we have guests, or if I want to make something interesting in between or if we run out. I am still analyzing the needs. – I would save myself from adhoc shopping and strain to carry them home. I just feel relieved with this plan in place. Hopefully, it helps me to get-away-from-plastic bags pretty soon.
  2. Meal planner – I just downloaded a free meal planner where I would be making a list of what to cook for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the entire week. It helps me with prep work too and hopefully saves time. I made it this week and I hope to improve my efficiency better.
  3. Washing dishes – there is no short cut yet, unfortunately, I do not have a dish washer and have to clean right then and there and some how need to learn to minimize the usage.

If nothing works, well, I plan to hire the cook on a need basis. It is always nice to treat myself by giving myself a nice break. I should at-least try once and see how it goes.

Overall, I do feel stressful at times and often wonder if I could make so much money where i could hire someone to come in and help me. But, at the same time, it also gives me satisfaction to some extent that I can indeed cook and feed myself. Eating out everyday is not my cup of tea even though I have done it for months in the past. I am slowly but steadily getting into the groove.

How about you folks? how do you do your meal planning? do you enjoy ? if yes – why and if not- why not? What is your ideal cooking/eating strategy?

Distractions at work..

These days, I seem to be productive if I come in to work during early mornings or late evenings. When I say early – it is between 7 to 8 am or evenings post 5 pm until 8 pm. With the resource crunch, the additional work responsibilities do add up.  So where does my time go in between? Meetings partially, catching up with regular work. But, lately, with some resources gone from my team, their acquaintances come to chat with me. I find it very hard to turn them down. I feel very much obligated to spare few minutes to chat with them.  The longer you are with the firm, the more people you tend to work with and conversations does extend beyond just work.

Not only that, I have been actively participating in organization events on and off, which led me to work with people whom I would never have met. Some more people under my wing to speak with. I mostly prefer short conversations and try to move on, by consciously taking it slow. I am struggling with balancing of my social chatter at work and getting my work done. I tend to sway giving priority to being obligated to speak to random-but-known-people versus getting my work done. Ergo, I end up either coming early or staying late to finish my work. Clearly, this is not an optimal approach for healthy work-life balance.

I am not a people’s person by any means, these acquaintances and some people whom I closely work with on a regular basis takes away lot of my time. I cannot imagine having to find a time slot in meeting any of my work colleagues outside the work with my insane number of to-do activities. The one thing that has helped me is to use the head phones. They are my true savior.  Those indicate I am seriously working on something.

Having said and done, I think, I look for excuses than to get my work done. Clearly, they are excuses and I need to figure a solution for my recently acquired problem– don’t you think so?

So, how do you deal with distractions at work? What measures do you take to prioritize your work and not end up working like me after hours and in weekends? What motivates you to stay focused?

Path to chemical free life style..

I have been spending numerous hours of time reading and watching videos to educate myself with making my own home made chemical free products. Almost everything that we consume this day are constituted of toxin including food. It baffles me to no end that how in the name of comfort that we ended up here. The body wash/soap, laundry detergent, beauty products, home cleaning products, bath products, food products and almost everything under the sun are contaminated with harmful chemicals. The realization hit me gradually.

From the day I moved to small home – I started questioning about accrued material possessions, and ever since, I have been very conscious of my purchases and It has drastically brought down my shopping habits. That led me to plastic-free phase- I got rid of 80% of my plastic utensils at home, I still need to let go of teflon coated dishes, oh and please let me know if you better suggestions. I still use lot of plastic in day-to-day life, it is slow but I am trying to be conscious and this requires bit of planning. Most of my plastic waste comes from impromptu-grocery-shopping and take-out food. It then led me to composting food to produce less waste – and now I am trying to go as much natural as possible.

In that attempt, I have created my very own body lotion out of all natural ingredients and feel proud of it. I have been using it for a week, I must say it has been great so far. Very moisturizing and I kind of got used to the smell. My next step is currently scattered in all different directions. Few areas I am trying to tackle head on with natural ingredients.

  1. Bath room cleaning products
  2. Beauty products – includes deodorant, eyeliner, mascara, foundation cream, blush and make up powder.
  3. Cleaning dishes – I still have not figured out this one yet and not sure if I ever will (one suggestion that I found which I am very concerned that it might clog the drain – in the past my grand parents used to wash their dishes with ash produced when cooking with woods, scrub was coconut coir/fiber – it is the exact same suggestion that i found online) – rest of them were mostly borax/baking soda and castile soap related – isn’t there any other better way to do this?
  4. All purpose cleaner for kitchen related  and floor cleaning.
  5. Laundry detergent
  6. The most important – tooth paste, body wash, face wash, hand wash and hair wash.
  7. Food – now this hard being in east coast. Farmers markets are done for the season. But, the conscious effort to eat meals completely prepared by not using processed seems to be in right direction. Almost there, but life is not easy!

You may think, why not buy eco-friendly natural products – a. They are way too expensive, b. Since, natural ingredients usually has less shelf life, it requires me to buy it more often. c. Fresh is always better. d. I feel great.

Anyone out there, who are currently doing their own products? If so, I would love to hear your suggestions. It definitely seems like a lot of effort, but definitely worth it for our own sanity to protect our-self from being exposed to such harsh chemicals.

And you dear readers, please make conscious effort and decline chemicals in your day to day life. Not only will it harm you, but the environment is getting damaged. During this process of education myself, I read some where that they schools from primary education are offering environmental classes. I could not be happier. But, how about us? why do not they consider, that they have discounted-work-shops for environmental awareness by government in respective communities to education people like us? I take that back – they would not – for simple reason, how can they make business – it is all one big political-business-survival drama!

The onus is on us to do what ever we can to protect ourselves as much as we could. What do you think?

Whipped Body butter – Home made

I spoke about making my own body butter in one of my previous posts and source from which I got the recipe was also posted there. I ended up getting all my ingredients – all of them raw, unrefined, organic(?as they say) shea and cocoa butters. Also, got organic coconut oil and sweet almond oil. On top of these expenses, I invested in getting 4 essential oils worth $85 and I feel I have over paid. To get the ingredients, I used amazon and read numerous blogs, reviews and cost effective ways to get them. I felt good about all of the main ingredients except that I felt being ripped off for essential oils. But, it seems like they are really going to last longer as you barely use not more than few drops.

I did the measurements of all in equal quantities and followed the exact same procedure of what has been described here (one, two). I have added combination of tea-tree oil for controlling acne and lavender for fragrance. The final product looked beautiful, like the one you get in stores, it’s whipped and the fact that this is equally edible made me so much comfortable to apply it on my skin. It surely felt moisturizing. The most important fact is – it is natural, chemical free and organic and it is nourishing.

Cons: what they do not disclose or discuss is:

It is bit greasy on my skin, and when I apply on face, it is much more (Yes, I use same lotion for everything and very generous too, I try not to use too many different products) – I do not know the results yet as how my skin will be in next few weeks or so. I will keep you posted.

It became bit hard, despite keeping it at a room temperature and storing in some what cool dark place, it is not as smooth as it was when it was whipped.

What I learned from the process:

It should be prepared in small batches until you get the desired results. Only after I made this and found how hard it has become, that I looked for ways to make it smoother. This is when I found this blog which lists out what we could do differently to make it more smoother and non-greasy but moisturizing body butter. I will apply those tips in my next batch when ever I am done with the current.

That cocoa & coconut oil are considered comedogenic, which means that they usually clog the pores and not good for acne prone skin. But, I have the history of using coconut oil on my face, for it’s anti-bacterial and anti-fugal properties, it might not be a problem. And cocoa is known to be a great anti-oxidant,  has restorative properties and soothes sensitive skin. Also, I have added tea-tree oil for acne combat. It is very important to know your skin type before you invest your time and energy in making them.

Even though every one prefers lavender, I find myself to be agnostic about it and did not find myself to use it again. The irony is that I spent the highest amount on this particular essential oil. I have always liked lemony, citrus flavored freshness smell and read some where that cocoa & lemon does not go well together. Next time, I will try it without cocoa and add lemon oil to it.

Results:

I will have to give it at least few weeks before I conclude. I am experimenting on myself before I consider gifting it to any one. The shelf life? – since all the ingredients are shelf stable, they say it should not go bad for 2-3 years, but I will be using it all up in couple of weeks.

Dear readers, do you make your own beauty products? Where do you source your ingredients from and which brand of essential oils have you used ?