1 January, 2015  |   Comment

Things I did right: Meal Plans

Last night I went on a bender of tallying up all my shortcomings — listing all the times I overindulged and underappreciated. When I finished, I moved on to my general thoughtlessness, selfishness and bad temper.


This morning I awoke with a shame hangover with only one cure.
Counting up the things I did right.

In 2014, I planned my meals every gosh dang week.

She likes short ribs

Here’s the post where I outlined the logic behind my meal planning — it is still mostly true. But I have a few more tips that made meal planning work even harder for me this year.

1. Publicity:  Instagram helped. Making it public forced healthier decisions and a regular schedule. Join me, won’t you?

Thai Pork Lettuce Bundles

2. Veggie Box: We are active CSA participants – we signed up for Farm Fresh To You  which delivers veggies to our door every Friday. If you’re in California, you can too – if you’re inclined, use the code HELE4346.

We’d originally cancelled our membership, we just couldn’t justify dumping so many uneaten veggies each week (Despite my attempts, I could get no toddlers to try turnips). But then, they introduced box customization. We can pick nearly exactly what we want in our box. We can also see the prices to compare with our local grocery store. This means that we’re getting healthy fruits and veggies we’re likely to eat, delivered to our door every week. For fruits and veggies in season, it’s cheaper than Safeway.

They are called Shishito Peppers because the bottoms look like little lions! (Shishi in Japanese.) Rawr!

2. Scheduling: I pick a time for weekly grocery shopping and work backward from there. If I have an hour and a half late Saturday morning, I set aside 20 minutes before that to make my meal plan and shopping list. The meal plan and shopping list are two sides of the same piece of paper, so I remind myself what to get. I won’t shop more than once a week, so this saves us time and energy.

August so far

3. Better leftovers: We threw out a lot of food at the first half of the year — so I had to get  better about planning meals with lunches in mind. I front-load the week with dinners that give good lunches and then we taper down the quantity, eating more leftovers as we get to Saturday.

Dorothy is sad at dinner

Things that didn’t work for me
Amazon Subscribe and Save: I couldn’t justify the sinking feeling in my heart when I saw the gas, effort and waste that went into a regular delivery of paper towels and toilet paper.

Couponing: I do my best with the Safeway app — but I just don’t have the time or mental space to keep coupons straight.

Too Adventurous: We have space in our brains for no more than one brand new recipe a week. Pinterest makes this challenging, but for a family at this time in our lives, it’s best to stick with what we know.

I have a few hundred meal plans from over the years collected on Flickr if you want to see what we eat for dinner on the regular, peep and judge freely!

Here was the one meal plan we stuck to in its entirety – pens at the ready we’ll be even better in 2015
Last week was the first in YEARS we ate everything according to meal plan. (I think we can do it again.)

Happy meal planning to you!


1 February, 2014  |   3 Comments

February NaBloPoMo


If you’re in any sort of job where you’re the go-between from the public to a product — like if you were a buyer for BevMo — I imagine that you would have a learning curve from “this is what I personally love” to “this is what’s popular in the world right now.”

For example:  thanks Target buyer, I’m glad you like Shabby Chic, but mid-century owl mirrors are what’s making the Instagram ladies say “Adorbs!” and you need to make sure there are 500,000 of them in stores.

Well, I sort of do that for my day job.
But for bloggers.

For my job, I recommend themes and bloggers for campaigns. In that I walk the line between recommending for paid content, what I, personally love (Long Rambling Narrative Posts About the Exquisite Joy/Pain Of Our Human Existence) and what’s actually going to work for the next campaign.

I see clients’ campaign whims swing back and forth:
We want storytelling!
No! Pinterest!
Selfies are in/not in!
I’m SO over illustration.
Bigger Pictures!

What did they want again?

There’s always a good fit, but it’s mostly luck.
This person is the right age, this person has the right color hair, this person already drives this car. It’s rarely something you can prep for — this being in the right place in your life at the right time.

The places where sponsored content comes from changes fast. The requested media is all over the place. During this exciting time, it’s all crazy — you can make informed choices, but you can’t be everything to everyone.

There’s no one way to be the “top” right now outside of doing what you do.


So this short month, I’m taking my own advice.
I’m having fun with this medium.
I’m going to be me.

I’m not going to stress out and worry about the next big social network, but I’ll experiment with those too.

Thanks for granting me the freedom to experiment.
I like your open point of view.

4 June, 2013  |   Comment

There’ll be sad songs, to make you cry

This is post 5 of 6 from a talk I gave at the Big Traveling Potluck about taking care of your internet creativity through the artistic stylings of Billy Ocean.

There'll be sad songs, to make you cry

One of the feelings that squash collaboration is Jealousy. And there’s no better place to see jealousy run rampant than in personal publishing.

I talk about the crippling effects of online jealousy a lot because I think it’s something we all wrestle with.

I think the problem is far more insidious than any of us let on.

Like I said, we work in isolation on our egos — impossible to follow the trite advice to ‘keep your eyes on your own work.” It’s in our faces, under the guise of community and “just keeping up.”

It comes in sneaky ways that don’t immediately read as jealousy, and instead bubble up as irritation, hate reading, asking questions in your head like
– Why wasn’t I invited?
– Why do they hate me?
– Who does she think she is?

It’s jumping to conclusions like
– She/He thinks he’s too good for this.
– They didn’t have it as hard as I did, that’s why they’re successful.
– Hey! That was MY idea! He stole it!

It’s even worse when money and fame get into it. What else is the current monetized internet other than traffic numbers and competition for limited opportunities?
(Not much).

I’ve talked about this before, but I have been helped immensely by not assuming my jealousy as the end game. I use it as a tool – when I’m jealous of someone (and quite honestly, I’ve been jealous of most of the people in this room) I’ll make a jealousy map, where I write out Who, Why and Now What.

It sounds too easy to work, but it quickly stops that downward spiral. I learned this from the great book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron – a creativity course I do once a year to help me identify blocks and ruts in my creative processes.

Billy Ocean

3 June, 2013  |   1 Comment

The Tough Get Ready, Absorption and Envision

This is post 4 of 6 from a talk I gave at the Big Traveling Potluck about taking care of your internet creativity through the artistic stylings of Billy Ocean.

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Ready

I assume you’re all highly creative. This is because creativity is the juice that runs this business of digital publishing. The creative stuff is what has that amplification – what you just have to share.

Thankfully, brain science is steadily helping us develop our creativity.

In studying the brains of highly creative people, some scientists theorize that there are 7 different brain activation processes based on the different phase of creativity you’re in. By identifying these processes, and maximizing your environment for each of them, you can blow up your creativity at each level (for more on this, find the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck)

We can do this. We can amp up our own creativity.
And here’s 2 of the 7.

The first, is acknowledging and getting into the Absorb brainset.
(Getting into the Absorb brainset is much more successful than what passes for inspiration these days – the cursory Pinterest romp.)

When we open our minds to new experiences and uncritically take in ideas, we can take in more knowledge that we can combine in different ways thereby increasing our creativity.

Let’s get in the Absorb mindset right now.
Seriously, you and me.
Let’s get more creative.

First, take in a deep breath.
Close your eyes (it’s cool, I promise).
Let go some of that unconscious tension and start to recognize what’s going on through all your senses.

Feel your feet touching the floor – your shoes. Feel how your body is touching the furniture, how your clothing feels in a nonjudgmental way. What are you smelling? What’s the temperature like? Move through each of your senses. Quiet your censors, wake up your sensors.

Open your eyes and continue this feeling of absorption. See how colors have become brighter, you can notice angles and shadows and all of a sudden you’re aware of more stimuli coming in from your senses.

Basically, you’ve just primed your brain to accept better and more information. As soon as you’re not filtering out this information, you have more available to you to recombine in creative and original ways.

This is superior to “taking a spin through Pinterest” because it’s relying on your own creativity — your own lens, which is what the internet was made for.

Another brainset to maximize your creativity is the Envision brainset.

To get into the Envision brainset, think visually rather than verbally. See and manipulate objects with your minds’ eye. Prime your brain to see comparisons between 2 things that seem far removed from them originally (Shutterbean is great at this).


Look around you in your environment and think about the consequences if something were changed.
What if – avocados grew hair? What if you had six arms instead of 2? What if you took a bath in mayonnaise?

How would the world change?

Once you see these consequences, you’re actually forging pathways in the brain that allow you to activate this Envision brainset in the future. Let’s give these synapses a workout! Your internet web site depends on it.

And kids do this all day long.

Kids aren’t filtering out what we adults need to filter out — our prefrontal cortex helps us plan for the future and it does this by judging the rest of what’s coming in.

This helps us increase the signal to noise ration. We grown ups have goals, and our goals keep our brains on track.

Therefore we only notice what’s in line with our goals or what we need to survive.

Kids don’t have this level of prefrontal cortex development — they’re still getting this information and they wonder about it – they have the freedom to play WHAT IF all day long, because their brains are built for it.

But to be creative — we need to turn down that prefrontal activator so we can have better ideas, combinations, new creative thoughts. Right now, things are changing so rapidly, we need to be able to adapt and take the next step rather than following an already delimited pathway.

Absorption, envision.
You got this one.

Billy Ocean

14 May, 2013  |   3 Comments

Gifting issues.

This post sponsored by Frigidaire.

Re-entry from our trip to the Big Traveling Potluck, Mickey’s house and Mom 2.0 has required a more intensive re-entry process than I was prepared for. Work! Kids! Bocce! Work! Work!

Speaking of, did you see my Biscuit Brunch and Mimosa Bar video that I did with the Wine Sisterhood? (It was exactly like being on a cooking show and I loved every minute of it.)

But a week out of making wine videos and being out of the office meant I needed to take care of the secondary items that were ignored. Cards, gifts, acknowledgements, bills, appointments, plans, all of it waiting patiently in a ditch.

None more than gifts.
They’re always last on my list

Except this one time when I bought James a cello

I’ve talked about love languages before, and the one I least understand is gifting. I am profoundly uncomfortable accepting gifts, purchasing gifts and watching people open gifts. There’s something about gifting that I’m not good at.

Gifting gives me a bunch of anxiety.
But I’m working on it.
And I’m starting with Auntie T.

Auntie T. got married in October. We’re super happy for her!
It’s a brave decision
when you decide
who you are and
who you love and make the leap.

And we owe her a gift to commemorate.
And I put it off.
Until I remembered what makes Auntie T unique. She loves New Orleans, she’s not fancy, she takes after her dad. So I put together a gift package right for her. Not for anyone else, but her. We love you T.

1-abita 2-superhero
3-toaster 4-cruise
5-beneigh 6-besh

1. Abita Strawberry Beer. This Louisiana brew only comes out once a year. Now how to smuggle to Arizona?
2. A Superhero Mask. The groomsfolk all wore them, and the brides are superheros.
3. Frigidaire Convection Oven. Make a late night French Bread pizza. Just like in the French Quarter. Or some Bread Pudding. Whatever.
4. Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles. Because it’s so much.
5. My New Orleans: The Cookbook. Let me tell you about the time Chef Besh served us cocktails and made me his assistant.
6. Beignet mix from Cafe du Monde. Perfect for Sunday morning experiments.

We packed it up with feather boas and love, and a whole lot of happy vibes for the new couple. Hooray for love and french bread pizzas or bread pudding.

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