Manic Mondays - How to Avoid

One of my good friends always plays the best 80's station when we come to visit.  Last night while hanging out I heard the familiar opening bars of that classic Bangles hit, Manic Monday. With it stuck in my head today, the irony was not lost that when I first heard this song I really had no idea just how manic a Monday morning could be.  At the time I'm sure I thought it sheer torture to have to get up and go to school; years later I long for the luxury of having a closest of clothes that someone else bought and laundered for me, a tasty, balanced lunch handed to me, and a personal life coach / manager to make sure all the items on my to-do list were crossed off , thus preventing embarrassment in front of management, er, the teacher.  Thank you, Mom.

Our transition from gnarly students who think we have it rough to first-time workers learning the ropes of life, to our current occupations as all-grown-ups, Monday is an omnipresent factor in the daily grind.  I like to take the "It's a brand new week!" approach as opposed to "I don't like Mondays;" after all, if Monday morning never comes, neither can Friday afternoon.  But I will admit, a bad start on Monday can set you back, if not for the week than at least for the day.

I'm a gal who needs to be organized about my weekly prep.  I can feel the ominous rising of a bad week ahead if on Sunday night my week's clothes aren't laundered, my lunch isn't prepped, and my butt isn't in bed by 11:30 at the latest. For me, a manic Monday begins at 12:01 AM. And so, I make sure I have my ducks in a row on Sunday night.  No Sunday flu for me; I'm blessed with a job I love and so as long as I'm tucked in with my book, blogs or magazine and a cup of tea at a decent hour, it's all good for the week. And since I am an organized sort, I rarely head to bed without being properly prepared.

Of course, there's more to the week than Sunday night. With two whole days, it's easy to start the week on top of your game, but somewhere around Wednesday things go off the rails. Along the way I've discovered a few tricks to make my work week prep a bit more streamlined.  I may not use all of these every night / day (respectively), but even utilizing a few can make all the difference.  Have you considered...
  • Smart snacks - I do my very best to be green, but I have to balance that with not wasting food and making sure we eat healthy. In another post I'm going to address packaging waste and how to fight it, but for the sake of this post I'm just going to stick to topic.  With two adults working full time on opposite shifts, sometimes single serve just makes sense.  Yogurt and cheese are two products that I've started purchasing in single serve form.  The simple truth is that we're both more likely to grab these healthy snacks if it's easy and convenient.  Fruit, juice, and granola bars are other examples of good-for-you grab and go snacks.
  • Easy meals - I love a big, delicious sandwich, but in truth, how many sandwiches make it to lunch time looking and tasting nearly as good as they did when first assembled?  Enter the wrap.  There's lots of awesome combos that can be made in advance and still taste fresh, and in my experience wraps don't seem to get as soggy as bread. For wraps and more, I look forward to Real Simple's bag lunch idea every month for fresh lunch options; in fact I'm planning to start posting about out these, and other lunch recipes in the near future. I also find Everyday With Rachel Ray a good source of lunch ideas, especially when they point to options for using dinner time leftovers for the next day's lunch.  I also often lean on a big pot of soup, chili, or goulash to get us through a week of meals.  And although nothing is as good as fresh and homemade, having a few pre-made frozen options tucked into the freezer is never a bad idea. Finally, when you find yourself down to the end of a pot of soup or stew (or you get tired of it before it runs out) don't throw it away!  Invest in a few freezer and microwave friendly bowl sized containers and freeze your leftovers - you've just made you own single serve frozen meals!
  • Type A Appliances - You know that friend who gets everything done well, quickly, and in style?  Make your appliances be that for you.  On Friday you heard all about my new morning saver, the Tassimo single serve coffee maker. If single serve isn't your thing, consider a coffee maker with a timer; you can set it for 15 minutes before you wake up, saving you having to fumble around with filters and grounds first thing in the morning, not to mention the aroma alone will get you out of bed!  Speaking of getting out of bed, if that's an issue, put your alarm clock across the room from your bed so that you actually have to get up to turn it off; I find I'm less likely to hit "snooze" when I do this.  Dish washers also have timers, and a friend was telling me about her new Roomba vacuum that can be set to go whenever you want.  After all, what would be better after a Manic Monday than clean dishes and floors?  Bread machines and slow-cookers can make mealtimes much easier, so much so that you may be tempted to toss your takeout menus. And make your downtime work for you; I once pointed out to a friend that while I was sipping wine on the patio on Saturday night I was also washing dishes, doing laundry, cooking a roast and baking bread!
  • Can-do Clothes - When wardrobe planning, keep care instructions in mind.  Yes, we all want quality, but a few career wear items that can go in the washer and dryer and don't require ironing can be a life-saver. Anyone who's realized they have an entire work wardrobe of hand wash only clothes knows what I mean. Many new washing machines have a hand-wash feature, something I'm loving right now for my dress pants and delicate tops.
  • PM Beauty Prep - As much as I love my morning shower, sometimes it's worth it to get it out of the way the night before.  The challenge I faced with this was my hair, which definitely looks better when it's freshly blow-dried.  A little research  revealed night before coif ideas that transition well for a sleep loving modern career gal.  I'm loving sleep-friendly foam rollers, for example.  With very little effort in the morning I have bouncy waves that last all day.  Of course, there's always the ponytail, but a sad old elastic holding back limp, lifeless hair doesn't spell success.  Look for pony tail clips with teeth that separate your hair for added bounce.  Even a bar clip will make your pony look more professional. A touch of make up and you'll look like you put in way more effort than you did!  All without sacrificing...
  • Sweet, sweet sleep - Elusive, isn't it?  Yet it's so essential.  Identify how much you need (everyone is different) and do everything in your power to achieve it.  Plan, plan, plan so that you can work at gearing down to a relaxed state before bed-time.  I totally understand that life, children, pets, shift work, and not enough hours in a day make this goal difficult to achieve, but if there is one area you can focus on to improve that will make a huge difference in your health and work performance, this is it.

None of this is rocket science, of course, but sometime we get into work-a-day ruts and reading how someone else organizes their time can give us a new idea that can save precious morning minutes.  To that end, what do YOU do to avoid the dreaded Manic Monday?

And so, darling readers, it's time to take my own advice and hop to my Sunday night prep.  After all, 12:01 AM and a Manic Monday are only 6 hours away! Nighty night!

Good Mornings! - My New Coffee Obsession

Since returning to work in March, I am often struck, usually while showering, by the awesome humanizing effects of hot water and caffeine.

It's true!  I'm well aware that, as a Pisces, a dip in water is indeed therapeutic for me, and this fact is never truer than early in the am, when my warm bed is beckoning me to snooze for just a few more minutes.  I love the thought of being one of those people who hop out of bed raring to go, but that only happens if I'm climbing out of bed at 10:00 on a Saturday.  Luckily, it doesn't take much to motivate me; a hot shower with some yummy smelling shower gel and a steaming cup of coffee and I'm good to go, peppy enough to be referred to on occasion as "way too positive for the morning!"

And yet, achieving both the hot shower AND the fresh brewed coffee was getting tricky.  Despite my best night before planning, getting myself and the dogs prepped and ready for the day was leaving little time for coffee brewing.  We're French press people, you see, so there's no setting a timer the night before.  On mornings when we pull it all off, we are rewarded for our efforts by not having to consume gas station coffee (no Timmy's, Starbucks, or Dunkin' for us folks, and our local cafe isn't open at 8:00 AM).  However, more often than not we found ourselves pulling into the gas station for two cups of "cappucino," or, as my husband calls it "hot milkshakes in a cup." Not good for the waistline, and, frankly, just plain not good.

This, I am sure, in addition to their $3.00 a pop price tag, is what prompted my husband to buy me a lovely gift, while simultaneously forcing me to make a decision.  You see, we are discovering that I am a commitment-phobe.  I have been considering a cell phone, cable provider, and single cup coffee machine for several months.  I am still without a cell phone and cable provider, which, I am told, practically makes me a pioneer, BUT, I am the proud and passionate owner of a Tassimo T20 Home Brewing System.  
Photo from
 The Tassimo has changed my morning go-to-work experience.  For those of you not familiar, single cup coffee systems prepare hot beverages one at a time using an encapsulated single serving of coffee, tea, chocolate, etc.  There are several different kinds available on the market, all of which offer lovely beverage choices and have loyal followings.  The one beverage they all make is coffee, but after that it gets diverse.  The Tassimo, which I own, brews coffee, tea, and hot chocolate, as well as specialty drinks like lattes, cappuccino, and espresso using T-Discs.  Tassimo is known for it's use of bar code technology, which is how it knows how to brew your drink (a large cup of coffee versus an espresso shot, for example).  Keurig uses K-Cups to deliver a dizzying variety of drinks such as coffee, tea, chocolates, and even hot cider.  The sheer variety of drinks available is a definite selling feature for the Keurig, in fact the only thing it doesn't seem to do is make specialty drinks.  But if lattes and caps aren't your thing, then Keurig will have you covered for just about everything else.  Dolce Gusto is Nescafe's offering; if you like your drinks frothy and fun, this machine is for you.  Although it does offer just coffee, the majority of varieties on its website are coffee house favorites.  Tea is not a big feature for the Dolce Gusto; the only tea I saw was peach iced tea.  However, the Dolce Gusto does make iced drinks, which is nice, especially with the summer coming up.

Decisions, decisions!  How to choose?  Luckily, among my friends and family are people who own each machine, and so I was able to pick their brains.  

Keurig showed up most frequently among the people I talked to.  Again, the selling point was the vast amount of flavours available.  I like choice, so this was appealing.  However, I love my frothy drinks, too.  So, maybe the Dolce Gusto?  I only know one person who owns this machine and they definitely are fans of coffee house drinks like those offered at Starbucks and Second Cup.  The Dolce Gusto was a perfect fit for them, but I wanted a bit more variety in suppliers.

We decided on the Tassimo, and I adore it!  I do hope that the company gets a few more brands behind it, but all in all the offerings are not bad; I can buy T-Discs locally by companies like Nabob, Twinnings, Maxwell House, and Suchard.  I'm disappointed that Starbucks coffee isn't going to be available in T-Discs once current supplies run out, so I'm buying up every pack that I can find!  But, Gevalia is going to be coming on board starting in July, so as long as they are offered in Canada I'll be a happy girl.

I've come up with a few fun coffee drinks.  I've made cafe mochas by adding a hot chocolate disc to a cappuccino.  It was delightful, but next time I will stop the chocolate brewing process a little early so that the cocoa flavour is more pronounced. I also developed my own version of the popular coffee house drink Shot in the Dark, which is essentially an espresso shot in a cup of coffee.  This one is easy-peasy, just brew your coffee, then brew an espresso disc into the same cup.  I really like this one when I need a little more oomph in my morning cup!  And finally, I am making tasty London Fogs in record time.  I use a latte milk disc, a Twinnings Earl Grey Tea disc, and a shot of French Vanilla syrup.  I add the syrup before I start, then brew the tea followed by the milk. As with the mocha, next time I am going to shorten the brew time on the tea so the flavour is more intense.

Whichever system you choose, I think you will find that it makes a definite improvement to your morning mood!  I can brew us each a travel mug of breakfast blend in about a minute a piece!  I will never give up my French Press, no lazy Sunday would be complete without it, but for the daily grind I am completely sold on the single cup system.  In fact, I would get a Keurig to keep my Tassimo company.  If you think that's weird, look at your own coffee supplies; how many of you own a percolator, press, AND an espresso machine?  Not so weird!

This is part of of new series of posts called Good Mornings I'll be presenting as part of my re-vamp of Nesty to suit my new, working girl status.  I did not receive any machines, supplies, or the like to review, I bought (well, my husband bought) my machine.  I am sure all the systems are lovely, I am just sharing the decision making process I followed to make my choice.  I would love to know how you brew your morning cuppa, so please, share in the comments!

The Christmas Calmdown - Making Time for Those We Love

Hello, and welcome back to The Christmas Calmdown with Nesty and Pattycake Manners!  We're planning ahead for a peaceful December, and this month we've got some great  suggestions for making time for those we love...both human and animal!

Once the hustle and fuss of the holidays is over, one of my regrets is often not having made enough time to visit and spend time with friends and family. So often it seems that we make the rounds of parties, levees, dinners and socials, but don't spend nearly enough time curled up by the tree or fireplace with a good friend and a cup of mulled cider.  Since becoming a dog owner, I often find myself wishing after the fact that I had planned some Yuletide fun with my furry friends, too.  And so, in the spirit of the Christmas Calmdown, I've thought about it and I've made a plan to incorporate quality time with pets and pals!

First, I'll deal with the humans.  Now, if you're like me, despite how much you love the holidays, there is a part of you that is very happy and relieved to disappear for most of January. Indeed, once my party hat and noise maker are hung up after NYE, I'm ready to embrace my inner hermit for a few weeks.  And yet, for all the people I do see during the holidays, I often find myself wishing I'd had a few more "good chats" with certain people that I really like.  Here's my plan for reaching out in December 2011:
  • Phone Calls - How many times do we say "I'll call you over the holidays?" and then never do?  The trick, I've learned, is to pick the right times to call.  Despite our best intentions, my family and I have learned during the two years I've been away that between the time difference and our respective gatherings, December 25 is never going to be the day for a long, meaningful holiday chat.  We call each other and exchange "Miss you, love you, wish I/you was/were there/here's" and that's essentially it. But a few days later, mug of tea in hand, my mum and I will settle in for a long, newsy chat where we catch up on what we've each been up to during Christmas week. Also, there's nothing wrong with scheduling a call.  We schedule everything else in our mad, busy lives, what's wrong with saying to your bestie "Phone date on Saturday at 2:00?"
  • Skype - Skype is a great way to stay in touch, and best of all, it's free!  Just be aware that some people need "prep time" to Skype.  No one wants to sit chatting with a messy house behind them, or in their bathrobe, or with crying children in the back ground.  So don't be offended if the person you wish to Skype with puts you off for another day.  And don't leave your Skype online if you have no intention of taking calls...that's kind of a tease. As with the phone calls, why not schedule a Skype?
  • In Person Chats - Each season, we start out with the best of intentions...for craft nights, Christmas movie nights, sushi nights, cookie swaps, tree decorating parties, tree cutting parties, and on and on and on.  Let's be honest here, folks, to successfully coordinate everyone we know to all these events, we'd need to start before Halloween and hire Paris Hilton's social secretary. By all mean, aim to have a few fun get-togethers with your gang, but instead of driving yourself nuts trying to "do it all," why not aim to have a quiet evening with one or two good friends, just chatting and decompressing from all the frivolity? I enjoyed one such evening on the 22nd this year, making gnome / nisser ornaments with a friend.  It was just a nice, quiet evening of wine, Christmas cookies, crafting and chat, but it put me in more of a Christmas-y mood than a lot of the bigger gatherings I attended this season.       
 And now, on to the pets!

As a total dog mama, I enjoy the presence of my three fur babies around the tree.  It honestly doesn't seem like Christmas morning without a soft little nose nuzzling my new sweaters, or a paw batting at pretty paper.  Our cats love snuggling under the tree, and we have to pay special attention to make sure that they don't eat the ribbon!  Indeed, the one holiday we spent in Regina, the only thing we didn't like was the fact that we weren't with 
 our babies.

We've had some pretty memorable holiday moments with our pets.  One special outing during our first year in Kitimat was when we went Christmas tree hunting with some new friends.  We took our little Molly along with us as we hiked through an absolute winter wonderland and she had a ball!  When we look back at pictures of that day, it's like a form of "Where's Waldo?" with Molly taking Waldo's place!  It turns out she's quite the photo bomber as she popped up in almost all the pictures!

Ainsley shared a special Christmas pet memory with me in preparation for this post.  On Christmas mornings when their pups were younger, they would give the dogs their presents first.  By the time the humans were ready to open gifts, the pups were tuckered out from the fun and were content to head to their beds with their new toys.

I'm glad to hear that my house isn't the only one where the fuzzy wuzzies are part of the holiday fun. We are always looking for other ways to include our pets in our holiday celebrations, since they really are our family!  Here are some ideas:
  • Take a Hike - Whether you're looking for a tree, or just enjoying the fresh, crisp December air, take your dog along.  They definitely add some silly fun to candid shots along the trail!
  • Gifts from the Heart - This year why not make some homemade gifts for your best friends?  Gourmet cookies, toys, a new bed or blankie, even a sweater will mean even more if you make it yourself.  Pet websites and blogs are full of great, creative ideas.
  • Gifts that Keep Giving - Unfortunately, not all pets have a home for the holidays.  Why not make life a little brighter for a shelter dog by donating food, treats, blankets, towels, leashes, collars, time or even cash to your local animal shelter?
  • Photo Op!  -  I'm sure they hated me for it, but this year I found a few pairs of dog antlers and some Santa hats at the local dollar store and I just couldn't resist!  The resulting photos were hilarious; Tinky loved his clothes, Max (fresh from the shelter) would've agreed to anything as long as he got to stay, and Molly, well, the photo speaks for itself...

I hate my parents.
All joking aside, clothes are really something you shouldn't force on your pets unless they are agreeable to it; we are lucky that our pups don't really mind getting all dolled up! 
  • The final, and perhaps most important thing you can give your pets during the holidays is your time.  With all the coming and going, our furry friends can often find themselves home alone more frequently and for longer hours than they might be used to.  Take an evening to stay in and snuggle with your furry friends by the tree, and for goodness sakes, don't forget to take them for lots of's a great way to check out the neighborhood's Christmas lights!
What's your strategy for staying connected with your friends, family, and furry friends during the holiday season?  Be sure to record your ideas in your Holiday Planner, and of course, share them in the comments!  See you next month!