Stop mindless browsing

I have a problem.  It is called “mindless browsing on the internet”.  I get drawn into link after link after link.  Pretty pictures.  Interesting articles. Wikipedia. Anything but focusing on writing the novel, completing the work, blogging, or something productive that will pay off down the road.

I decided I don’t have time for the time wasting, what with baby already taking up several hours that I used to do…what exactly with?

The first step was cutting myself off of Facebook last week.  Quel experiment.  I mostly did not miss it, although yesterday I wondered what, if anything, L’s dad was posting.  (I used to notice he used to tell me those things eventually though, music he was listening to, photos he had taken…then I had to pretend I hadn’t already seen it on his facebook because nothing ends a conversation faster than, “oh, I saw that on your facebook already.”)

I notice I miss it the most when I’m trying to distract myself from a task at hand. It was a plentiful array of amusements: superficial messaging, stalking-cum-overly-friendly-interest cultivated in the lives of strangers, cute baby shots, irritating posts, gags, birthdays, new music, videos, changing self-flattering profile photos (“selfies”), useless life updates….not to mention the constant, unspoken invitation to compare ourselves constantly with our friends, followers and acquaintances.  Will I too go to Hawaii or buy a BMW? Will I win a pulitzer and get a phD in muslim studies?  Don’t I want that?  After I cut myself off, I dreamt about a woman who constantly posts personal information about herself and her family. Did I go into withdrawal? In my dream we had had a passive aggressive fight….she sent somebody to tell me she was mad at me, a la sixth grade.

The second step – gah- is cutting myself off of email during work hours!  And feedly, an excellent google reader, which is my new time wasting time waster.

I decided I had to get tough with myself.  Bam!  Enter “Stay Focused” a chrome app.  Apps are super easy to use in Chrome.  This one also works across several platforms.  Find it here.  Basically, you enter in the sites you are addicted to — ahem– I mean that you like to browse, and it limits your time within them to 10 minutes (automatically, although you can try to change this and permit more time it will guilt you with a message of, ‘are you sure you want to increase the amount of time you are wasting? that doesn’t seem very wise…).  How….clever.

Either I’ll now become extremely productive, or I will write a novel or blog all the time!!  Or I will discover new, unblocked websites to waste my time on, outrunning the blocker from site to site to site.

I wonder if this will work…..



The (almost) superfast lunch series

I work from home. Mostly, I eat leftovers for lunch.  I am not that big on bread. But sometimes, sometimes….all the leftovers are gone, through miscalculation or attack from other wandering members of the household (i.e. brother).  Then, it is just me, my wits and my raging appetite.

Luckily we keep a rather stocked pantry.

This is a series without photos. Let’s get this straight! This is about fast cooking and satisfying a need not the glory of food production!  Make it fast and wolf it down between dropping baby off at daycare and getting on with the day’s labour! Now, for some people, their needs could be satisfied with raw vegetables and a piece of the macaroni and cheese they made on Sunday.  Fridge to mouth. That’s not me.  Me? I need something reasonably fresh and on these rainy summer days, warming.

But these are superfast for people who regularly spend an hour making elaborate meals.  This can be in yo’ belly in about 20 minutes, stat!

Sorry, this series probably will not have photos because they are conducted and created in real time, and end up hot in my belly pre-styling and pre-photograph.  Although maybe I’ll just keep the camera in the kitchen. TIME WILL TELL MY FRIENDS. TIME WILL TELL.



Source: LUMAS

Lumas is a German-U.S. photography gallery with a massive online presence.  I discovered it several years ago and have coveted their affordable photography ever since.  I think buying a piece from here was on my list FOREVER but somehow I can never seem to justify doing so.  They have reprints of classic pieces, up and coming as well as limited edition prints from established artists.  


I see they’ve recently reorganized their site and it’s a bit wonky in places. The old categories are gone and they have illustrations, movie stills, digital art and painting now in addition to the old photography standbys! They’ve also expanded the number of galleries they have around the world.  Why do I imagine parting with $600 would be much easier if I didn’t hand it over in person… For some reason I chose all images of women but there are landscapes, abstract pieces, still lives, magazine covers, the whole gamut. 

Check it out here.

The beauty of routine

One of the oft-cited benefits of a good habit is that it takes virtually no effort to keep on the right path.  When exercising is a habit, we do it whether it’s pleasurable or not.  When eating healthy is a habit, not eating healthy is something that happens rarely.  Since I had bebe, I don’t have much of an exercising habit, but my healthy eating habits fortunately stay strong.   I do not have to think about what to eat…a natural repertoire, cultivated over the past 10 years will furnish me with some combination of vegetables and protein, unless junk is to be found in the house.  My parents are much more into carbs so I can gorge myself on nutrition free white crackers from time to time.

I have lately been reflecting on how having a routine has changed my life.  It became clear around 2 months that the bebe needed to sleep at around the same time every day, and that she would FREAK OUT late at night.  We finally (duh) realized that she was tired.  We Ferberized her over the course of 48 hours.  She responded extremely well to sleep training…

In other aspects, I found keeping a routine simplified my own life in terms of ensuring all her needs were met in a timely way and in return I’ve seen her respond extremely well to the routine.  I try my best now to deviate as little as possible from it. When we do, we pay in tears.  Saturdays have been hell because we decided to take a swimming lesson downtown.  We end up stuck in traffic for several hours and she usually doesn’t have the patience for that.  Day trips out of town used to be fine because she slept a lot – now she hates being the car for hours and hours.   She doesn’t seem to be able to settle in the car even at night.

My routine is this: In the morning my parents help me (we all have flexible work schedules – yeah). She will use the potty as soon as she wakes up (if we catch it! Lately I’ve had a terrible cold and I am not responding in time). Then it’s breast, bath (my parents usually bathe her, which is their special time with her), maybe more breast and then breakfast (usually oatmeal with fruit), followed by play until the 10am nap.  During her nap I try to work. After the nap, I potty her again, breastfeed again, possibly change her clothing and then take her to daycare. She usually spends the afternoon in daycare while I work and handle personal business.  At daycare they give her lunch, a nap and an afternoon snack. By 6pm we are home again and I handle dinner and bed by myself.  She hasn’t had any breastmilk at daycare so I feed her again, if there is time we play a little, then I plop  her in the exersaucer and chat with her while I whizz up a few things for dinner (for her) and make a plate for myself.  I feed her while I eat dinner, and by 7:15 it’s potty time again, followed by a soap-less bath, which she enjoys greatly (twice a day baths may seem excessive but it’s all par for the course for a Caribbean family! my mother would seriously protest if I dropped the end of day bath).  If she has energy I read her a book while she tries to rip it from my hands to chew on, and then I lay her down to sleep between 7:30 – 8:30pm.   I know it will be a good night if she immediately rubs her little eyes when I put her in the crib.  We are not rigid. She may fret for a few minutes but then she is out like a light until about midnight.   We no longer co-sleep because I find I get  a much more interrupted slumber, plus I overheat  – she seems to think the buffet is never closed.

I realized today that her first sleep in the evening is the perfect time for me to go and have a workout, since one of my parents would usually come home around that time.  I am going to join the Y soon and start working out again.  When her father is here, my favorite time is after we put her to sleep we collapse on my bed and chat for a bit. Or we might have cooked something more elaborate and we might eat leisurely after she goes to bed.

The benefits of this routine seem to be that she is very happy, rarely fussy but I think the biggest benefit, esp. when I hear about all of people’s sleep woes, that she sleeps very easily.  It is important to note that generally she is an unfussy child, but if we stray from this routine she will fret for either food or sleep.  On the weekend she was fussing for no immediately discernible reason in the afternoon. I realized she is accustomed now to having a snack.  When I gave her some pureed pear she immediately perked up.  So – woe on us if we do not heed the routine.

From my perspective, this routine was a sacrifice. Even though I saw the benefits for DD, it robbed me of spontaneity (although if I was really honest, having a child is the thing that stole spontaneity from me).  No longer could I accept invitations or go anywhere during the week.   And woe if a plan strayed beyond 7pm when she becomes extra fussy.  Even though my activities are constrained to these time periods of her slumber, I was seeing it as a net loss. The fact is, I do not yet have good personal habits getting me through my chunks of free time, so I am likely to fritter the time away reading my RSS feeds, social networking, landscaping, etc.   And still I hoped to be done with this routine so I could resume my freewheeling, come-as-you-please life.

Well, today it occurred to me that this routine, coupled with the massive emotional/mental makeover of becoming a (single) mom, is helping me to be more contemplative and in my contemplation, more humble. It seems as though I can see my adolescence and young adulthood with new clarity– my personal foibles and the things that I still need to ‘work on’.  How long have I been clinging to my own point of view, an old image of myself as a precocious and ruined… Routine has actually granted me the mental leisure to come to these conclusions. No longer am I filling time with impromptu dates, work outs (ok, obvs I am going to get the work out going again but they will be preplanned), lectures, tv (I have one, I just try not to sink in front of it in the evening).  Routine, ultimately, will allow me to create better habits & free up mental energy, both worthy goals.   Now I would like to routine-ize a few more things – a grocery shop, the trip to the library, the workouts, laundry, folding clothing…everything that needs to be done over and over again.  Wouldn’t we like to do these with as little thought as brushing one’s teeth requires? I would.




5 Things/ That you should not cheap out on for your bathroom renovation

You can’t even see the things you shouldn’t be cheaping out on in this lovely photo.

Bathrooms are scary. What I mean is, bathrooms are scary to renovate.  Much scarier than kitchens even though kitchens are larger, more expensive and involve appliances.

Why? Because there is water involved.  And water, not properly dealt with in a confined space, leads to nasty & expensive problems like mold.  And also because I know nothing about all the seemingly magical items and fillers and gooey things and screens that go into bathrooms to prevent nasty & expensive problems, outside of standard reno TV viewing.  But I SEE them (by them: qualified experts) put various doo-dads in there and I also see Holmes on Homes talk about how this is all usually done very badly, and then I start to quake in my slippers and see dollar signs flowing down our designer drain.  There is obviously so much more to consider outside of the tub, toilet, faucets and tile and the whole fun design-y aspect of this enterprise.

For instance, did you realize that there are a bazillion configurations of shower faucets/heads?  According to, you can have a ‘multifunctional showerhead’, a ‘handshower’, a ‘deck mounted handshower’, a ‘diverter’, a ‘deck mounted diverter’, a ‘shower system’ (etc.) and your shower can be ‘ADA compliant’, have a scald guard, and may include handles or a hose (you mean those things are usually not included?!!).    And then when you click on the actual item for purchase a little note pops up saying things like “This part needs this other part you’ve never considered before, watch out!” and when you read the reviews they say things like “This is the most complicated shower to install on the face of the planet and our plumber could not do it” (!!) or, “Oh, when my plumber was doing this he installed for a wall mounted shower but oops, this shower is not wall mounted” and it all just makes me want to throw my hands up in the air and say “Let’s pay someone to know this stuff for us!” (Which contradicts my frugal urges which say, “You need to learn this stuff yourself!”)

So I am approaching our bathroom remodel with trepidation and a lot of research.  Little Hogtown House has a major project in the works.  Before pictures to come. Firstly, there is the cosmetic updating of a dank and moldy 2nd floor bathroom.  Secondly, there is building a brand new bathroom from scratch on the 3rd floor.

DIGRESSION:  Single or double sink? The new ensuite went from a double sink-separate-bath-and-shower-ensuite into a single sink, tub/shower combo bathroom, as in, it got basic.  Because even though we have some savings to do these renos, we are miserly and don’t want to spend all of our hard earned cash on fanciness like dual sinks that nobody is going to use.  Do people actually use their double sinks, I pondered?  I did a formal poll to find this out.  “Mom,” I said, “Do you use your dual sinks?” “No, not really,” she said.  “I mostly need counter space so I can dry my hair while your father is getting ready.”  My mom just saved me at least $500 worth of sink, faucet and associated labour.  AT LEAST. But seriously – if you put in a second sink, you must plumb that sink, not to mention buy the sink itself and the hardware. My second poll involved asking my peer, “Should an ensuite bathroom have two sinks?”  The response to that was, “No, that’s some luxury ish.”  Thus the decision to eliminate the second sink was confirmed. I similarly eliminated several other items.  I should make a separate post on that.)

My bro poo-poos the cause because the reno is not scheduled until mid-fall.  “That’s really far away.”  Bro, we actually have the luxury this time of planning.  When we first renovated the kitchen back in 2008, we bought the house and gutted the first floor right away. Oh man, was that reno ever a nightmare.  And I have many regrets. Sad face. A story for another time.

Somehow we recovered from it though and managed to live together again.  The point is, those were bad times. Let’s not go back there, so that my disorganized ultrabudget contractor can do things like lay tiles in a squiggling crooked row, or forget about the molding around the window when installing the light switch, and cut a piece out of the molding to accommodate it.  Stupid, stupid, stupid.

My approach is to do as much research as possible to satisfy my inner control freakiness.    Researching leads me to great articles like this one.  Ostensibly it is 13 common mistakes, but in practice it is actually a list of about 10 things people cheap out on and how that will come and bite them in the ass.  Therefore I compiled my own list, based on that article.  It is called:


  1. Underlayment (floor surround)
  2. Diverter valve (keeps you from being scalded when someone flushes the toilet)
  3. Toilets.  (But we already bought low-flow toilets and we are definitely not buying new ones, so we fail that test.)
  4. Shower surround (they recommend Schulter-DITRA which sounds like a quality German product)
  5. Sealant (use silicon and expensive caulk)
  6. Faucets and shower components – “Be sure that your new faucets (and shower components) have ceramic disk valves (not rubber or plastic washers) and that the finish is of the highest quality.”
  7. Pay to replace shut off valves
  8. Pay for proper design (oops, we’re not doing that either).

Then at the end of this list, they hilarious say you should not overpay for your bathroom.   Is the fear in you, too, now?

There are some other great tips, so feel free to go to the article proper.