How To: Enjoy a Long Weekend in Texas

Step 1 – Meet old friend at baggage claim and awkwardly skip-run into each other’s arms. 

Step 2 – Use two different phones and absolutely no knowledge of Dallas to get lost for hours, venturing onto toll roads, back roads and m****rf*****g commerce way, until finally finding and touring Dealy Plaza. 


Step 3 – Stay in a fancy hotel for the night, planning to drink numerous a’Rita’s from the gas station, only to stay up late talking and fall asleep mid sentence. 

Step 4 – Enjoy continental breakfast, steal everything they won’t charge you for from the room. 

Step 5 – Go to friend’s house in Wichita Falls, see improve show, get drunk and talk about politics after being called a yankee and responding “my state wasn’t involved in that war…”

Step 6 – Go to friends hometown, meet her hilarious friends, go to lake to cool off and drink all the drinks. 


Step 7 – Wake up the next morning wondering why you are still wearing a swimsuit, why the words ‘crown royale’ make you nauseous, and where your toothbrush is. 

Step 8 – Go kayaking hungover. For five hours!

Step 9 – Drive a car for the first time in two years but just briefly. Feel 15 again and decide driving is still not for you. 

Step 10 – Go back to Wichita Falls, take a Benadryl because you are insanely allergic to Texas and konk out for the whole ride. 

Step 11 – Go hiking in Oklahoma on this trail, oh wait is that a snake, never mind, this trail nope that’s a snake, no, this trail, no snakes, awesome, wait where’s the trail?


Step 12 – Head back to Dallas for the flight home but magically find extra time and a Buccee’s. Buy tourist-y goods and delicious salsa. 

Step 13 – Say goodbye, promise to come back soon, know you will. 


Best of luck.

Dos and Don’ts of Flying

Do Know the Rules and Regs

I know it’s a lot, but TSA has a website and every airport has information centers you can call. You need to know if your bag will fit. You need to be prepared for security. Do your homework.*

Don’t take over the armrest

If the thing you are doing requires you to enter my personal space, ask yourself how necessary it is. If it is extremely necessary, make it happen fast and apologize for elbowing me in the ribs (lookin at you lady-from-yesterday’s-flight).

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Do pack snacks. 

One time I bought an orange juice at an airport Starbucks and it was $8.

Eight. What.

Airports are like theme parks except airports allow you to bring food in so, get you some snacks before you get to the airport and save a dime. Or eight dollars.

Eight!

Don’t shame a parent because their child is crying. 

I don’t like screaming children, you don’t like screaming children, their parents don’t like it either. But there is nothing they can do so, buck up buttercup, life is hard and the babies feel it all.

Do pack water. 

An empty water bottle is allowed through TSA and can be easily filled at a water fountain past security. Planes are dry and flying does weird stuff to your body so hydrate.

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Don’t play your sh*t out loud

This is a rule for life I think. If you are in a public space and you’re watching videos or listening to music, use headphones. Because, are you kidding me, don’t be a d*ckhead.

Best of luck

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*If you haven’t already researched it, look up ID requirements for 2018 flights. The laws are changing and certain state licenses won’t be accepted.

Dos and Don'ts of Flying (1)

How to Stop Procrastinating

I have, in my life, read hundreds of articles about procrastination; why it’s bad, how to stop, what your life would be like if you didn’t do it. I should note that I read many of these articles in lieu of working on a paper, project, or lesson plan.

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But recently I came across* a tip that worked. It’s not a long-term solution, it won’t break anyone of the habit, but in those moments where you just can’t get started, this works.

The tip: do nothing for a few minutes.

Yeah, that’s the big magic, stop doing anything. Literally sit somewhere, eyes open, and force yourself to stop; no tv, no phone, no nothing. Understand that this isn’t meditation, your thoughts are there and they’ll eat you alive while you’re forced to just sit there.

I tried this last night because it was 7 in the evening and I was still unable to get going on this state certification project that’s slowly draining my soul. Honestly, it seemed pretty stupid but I was desperate.

I sat on my couch and had to stop myself from planning things out in my head and picking up my phone, I even caught myself looking at my bookcases, deciding how I will pack the books when we move. But finally I put all of that aside and I felt…bored as hell. More importantly, the pressure to work on my project was unavoidable without distraction.

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I went for what I thought was ten minutes and finally decided to just get started on the damn project. When I picked up my phone it had been two minutes. Two minutes.

I think this was so effective because my entire being really did want to get going on this project and make headway, but my brain just kept finding activities that brought me more immediate joy. Without those things, or any other stimulus, I was left with that urgency to work and couldn’t ignore it.

Like I said before, this is not a cure to procrastination, but if you find yourself really stuck and unable to get going, give this a shot. And then come back and tell me about your experience in the comments: negative, positive, meh, I want to hear it all.

Best of luck

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*I wish I could remember my source but my overstressed brain can’t recall. Terrible historian alert, not citing her sources.

Francesca M. Healy

Learning to Take Care of My Damn Self

Growing up I watched my very motivated father work his fingers to the damn bone. If there was a retake needed by a football player, he’d stay until 6 to give it to them. If a parent meeting needed to happen at 5 am or 9 pm, he’d make it happen. If he needed to learn Spanish or trombone to get the information across, he’d do it.

Every evening I watched him get home late and fall asleep minutes after sitting down. And every single school break I watched him get horribly sick and spend his time off recovering.

When I started teaching I promised myself I would find a way to work for my kids, to give them every chance I can, without burning myself out.

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I have been blessed with a team of co-workers who are caring and understanding, who always look out for me. My co-teacher tells me often to take care of myself. The beginning of every department meeting is either a self care check-in (where we talk about our specific self care goals and what we are doing to reach them this week) or a self care practice (Tai Chi, guided meditation, etc.) My Assistant Principal meets with me once a week to lesson plan/unit plan/revise curriculum/talk about what’s not working and how to fix it. My in-school mentor meets with me once a week to talk about literally anything I need help with.

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I’m supported, much more so than a lot of teachers. I’m lucky and I know it. But still I got caught with a case of ignoring my own needs.

Last Monday I got up at 4 and laid on my couch sobbing because my head was pounding so hard I couldn’t move. I called in sick but by noon the fever, headache and general ick was so bad I couldn’t stop crying.

I went to the clinic in the afternoon (I’ll be honest I went mostly because I wanted to be at work the following day) and found out I had a high fever, a sinus infection, and an ear infection.

My point is: don’t do this. Don’t let it get this bad. I was sick, really obviously sick and tried to push too hard through it and for what?

Americans especially have this notion that if you are not absolutely killing yourself at work, you’re lazy. I can’t say this enough times: that’s bullsh*t.

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In Peru, we would work from about 7- or am until lunch, go get lunch and take a nap or spend time with family, and then go back to work from 3 until 5 or 6. Yeah, that’s a three hour lunch. We also took 20-30 minutes breaks throughout the day to sit and talk.

At first I was torn apart by the difference and went to the go-to argument so many others have used (or at least thought in their head): well maybe if they worked more, their country would be more advanced. This, my friends, is also bullsh*t.

The reasons that many countries struggle has more to do with internal structure and corruption than with amount of hours worked. Hard work may be important, but worker bees working their buzzers off with no break  will not improve a country or a city or a workplace or a person.

I suppose the moral of the story is: put in the work, do whatever it is you do the best that you possibly can, but remember that half of being your best is treating yourself well. Work hard, self care hard.

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Best of luck.

Learning to Take Care of My Damn Self

3 Awesome Uses for Turmeric

The other day I was riding home from a basketball game with a car-full of teachers and for some reason paprika came up. Clearly we are exceedingly interesting human beings and you should be jealous. After discussing how smoked paprika is amazing and plain paprika is lame, someone said “well, nothing is as bad as turmeric, it doesn’t taste like anything and it turns everything yellow.”

WHAT.

Turmeric is easily one of my favorite spices, for so many reasons. Personally, I’m in love with it’s anti-inflammatory properties that save me from IBS and angry old person joints again and again.

Don’t you worry, I set him straight, by telling him about three of my favorite ways to use turmeric:

1. Calming Golden Milk

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Golden Milk is a fantastic for tummy trouble, joint pain, or just a soothing hot drink. There are many different recipes to make this lovely elixir, but I tend to use the following:

  • 1-2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2-3 cups milk alternative (almond, soy, coconut, cashew, etc)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch of black pepper

Warm the milk over the stove and stir in the other ingredients. The black pepper seems a little strange, but don’t leave it out as it helps with absorption (and you really can’t taste it). Feel free to add in any natural sweeteners as well.

2. Face Mask

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I was hesitant at first to put a substance that’s know for staining this yellow on or near my face. This face mask however, did not stain my skin and, even better, it really helps keep it clear. I’ve noticed that the morning after I’ve put this on my skin, any blemishes I have are greatly reduced and my face in general is smooth and glow-y.

Again, there are many variations, but the mask I tend to use contains:

  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 3 tsp coconut oil

It’s messy so beware, and wear something black for sure. Rub the mixture on your face lightly until entire area is covered. Leave for 10-20 minutes. I also typically carry a tissue around with me while it’s on, to blot any possible drips.

3. Turmeric Seasoned Rice

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I love me some seasoned rice. I also love me some cauliflower rice because rice is not my stomach’s BFF. No matter what type of rice you’re eating, mixing in turmeric, (smoked) paprika, and salt and pepper make it so tasty. Put a fried egg (or three) on top and I’m in heaven.

Not only is it a solid meal though, the anti-inflammatory effects of turmeric work through this dish too. I find myself eating “yellow rice” (or yellowish, reddish rice)  when I’m feeling crumby and feeling better quickly.

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4 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Moving to NYC

1. The Subway is Hell

You know that movie scene where the quirky girl is riding the subway and writing in her journal about her quirky thoughts? She looks up and there’s a handsome stranger peering back at her. He smiles. She smiles.

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Riding the subway every day is exactly like that except replace “writing in her journal” with “struggling to stand while the car sways and the man behind her pushes his briefcase into her leg.” Oh and the handsome stranger is an old woman yelling at the ceiling that the A train used to run all the way to Jersey City. Oh and there are no smiles.

2. Renting an Apartment is Hell

No, I don’t mean it’s hard or time-consuming, I mean it’s actual hell.

Because I moved to New York with Boyfriend, the option of subletting or renting a room wasn’t really on the table for us. So, I started looking for studios about 3 months out from our move date. I was quickly informed that this was too early and listings are only up about 30 days before renting. Cool, cue anxiety spike.

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At about 6 weeks I found a listing on the Columbia Off Campus Housing site for students and met an awesome agent who took the time to explain the process. Here are some important pieces to renting basically any property in NYC:

– Your income must be 40x the rent annually – so if you want to rent a $1500 studio, you will need to make a minimum of 60k/year, for a $2000 place, you’ll need 80k/year. If you are really lucky, a rental company might accept 35x the rent, especially if you have good credit, but if not you’ll need a guarantor…

– A guarantor is a co-signer for the lease, this can be a family member or friend, but be warned, they must make 80x the rent ($1500 apartment = 120k/year). If you don’t have a loaded friend, there are many companies that will co-sign for you in exchange for a fee, which is typically one month’s rent.

– If a broker is showing you the apartment, that’ll be another fee which fluctuates between 1-2 months rent.

– If you meet all of these requirements and are approved before the apartment is rented to someone else, congratulations! Now quick pay a deposit, 1-2 months rent, renters insurance (in many buildings) and you’re in! Welcome to you 300 square foot apartment that costs 4x what it would have in the city you moved from

3. Taxes are Hell

I moved from a state where I could calculate the amount of money that would be taken out of my paycheck at about 10%. New York scoffs at that amount, New York giggles, New York promptly quadruples that amount and then asks how you’re going to make rent.

Granted I make more money than I used to, but my first paycheck was a bit of a surprise. Turns out, making 51k means I pay 38% of my income to the feds, state, and city. Cool.

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I know there is a system that involved brackets and varying percentages, but I don’t know exactly how it works. Best I can tell, New York just adds up the amount of joy it’s sucked from you that month and charges the same percentage in taxes.

4. Getting Out of the City is Hell

Ok, once you’re out of the city it’s awesome, but the actual act of leaving is a pain, especially during the holidays.

For Thanksgiving, Boyfriend and I went to Virginia to visit my family and looked at just about every possible way to get there. Flying was $800-$900, the train was $500-600, renting a car was a minimum of $600 plus gas. Finally we settled on a 12-hour overnight bus and it still ran us over $350.

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I won’t even talk about trying to fly back to the best coast for Christmas…cough $900 cough.

Granted these are long distance trips and we could get out a bit more locally, however then there’s the cost of travel, lodging and food. Day trips are rough if you don’t have a car and getting anywhere by subway/train/bus takes forever.

What I’m saying is, if you live here, you’ll want to get out once in a while and you will not succeed most of the time.

Alright so maybe it’s not that bad and NYC has some pretty beautiful and great bits too. But, be warned, it will try to get to you. Like a loud little brother, NYC will always be there yelling in your ear when you just want some space.

Anyway, I’d love to hear from you with any comments or questions!

Best of luck.

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How To: Batch Cooking

I’m back!*

So a couple of days ago, a friend asked me for advice about batch cooking/meal planning. I’ve been doing it consistently for a while, mostly because it makes for fast lunches when I wake up late and quick dinners when I come home tired, but also because it’s hot as balls in NYC this summer and turning on the stove once a week keeps my teeny apartment stay much cooler.

Seeing as school is starting soon, fall is coming for us, and change is around the corner, it seems a good time to share some of my hard-earned knowledge.

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Am I a professional cook? Absolutely not. Am I an expert of kitchen tools and food quality? Not even a little bit. What I am is a perfectly average cook with an interest in saving time and a propensity to walk away from a cooking session with at least two bandaids. I do not own a zester of any kind and for the last four years I’ve either cooked in the corner of a tiny studio apartment or shared a partially outdoor and entirely oven-less kitchen with a Peruvian family.

So why am I, the oft injured non-expert, writing about batch cooking? Because I can’t be the only one with a lot of interest and almost no skill. If we all read advice from only the experts, we’d start to get worried about our abilities. This one’s for you, average cook with very little time, I raise my box of bandaids to you!

Lessons I Learned While Batch Cooking:

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Have a Plan

Sure this seems obvious, but until you’re splashing boiling water down your pant leg because you have thirty seconds to strain it and oh sh** you should have but the meat in before the greens and is that FIRE, THAT’S FIRE…you don’t understand just how little you can wing it.

This is particularly important in the beginning: planning not just what you want to cook but the order in which you will cook it and a rough timeline is key.

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Mix Up Staples and New Recipes

This took me a while, but especially starting out, you don’t want to have to cook some new and impressive recipe for every meal. That’s 21 new recipes.

I don’t know about you but around 20% of the new recipes I try are sub-par. 20% of 21 is more than four meals. Four meals that you have to box up and eat later, knowing they aren’t going to be very delicious.

Avoid this by choosing 1-2 new recipes for the week and sticking to what you know for the rest. It’s also important to mix it up, cooking some full meals (ex: Beef Curry on Rice, Cracklin’ Chicken) and some things that can be mixed with other things (ex: boiled carrots, vegetable mix**).

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Ask For Help/Take a Damn Break

Cooking food for the entire week is not a simple task. While I’ve gotten better at it, almost every week I end up either hurting myself or getting tired doing it. Boyfriend has gotten very good at stepping in about five minutes before I hit this wall to help me finish up and clean the kitchen.

If you don’t have someone right there to help you, consider planning in a place to take a break and sit down with a glass of wine for twenty minutes. This does not make you weak, it makes you smart and less likely to injure yourself.

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Choose smarts, not the emergency room.

 

I hope these tips help in your future kitchen adventures and may the odds be ever in your flavor (Yeah).

Best of luck!

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*At this point, I’d like to say that I’m going to pick up the blog, cradle it in my arms, and rekindle my loving relationship with it, I would really like to say that. But I don’t want to lie to you. I’m starting the year of my life where grad school and full time work as an NYC public school teacher intersect and I’m still trying to figure out how to fit eating and sleeping in. But right now, I have a vacation and I’m going to blog, because even in the darkest times, something something, idk I’ll write when I can. But I do love you, you perfect cupcakes and I appreciate you reading the blog at all.

** Pre-cooked vegetables make for really fast omelets in the morning.

How To-