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Since I’m still looking for full-time employment, a great way for me to still raise some funds has been to work from home for Lionbridge. Lionbridge is contracted by Google to rate and improve their search results. For between 10 to 20 hours a week, I can get paid to rate searches, mobile pages, and other Google services. This has worked out great, because I can still take substitute teaching jobs, run errands, and clean the house while earning money during my “down time”.
Working from home can still have some unique challenges. Here are a few tips for anyone working from home, especially people doing internet jobs like Lionbridge.
1. Give yourself credit. I had a hard first week with Lionbridge because although I fulfilled my minimum number of hours, it didn’t feel like I had done any work. It felt like I had sat at my computer all day. So my first piece of advice is to take time to pat yourself on the back for the work you do, because it is work, and it is valuable.
2. Take active breaks. Sitting at the computer can be rough on the human body, so make sure you take breaks (5 minutes for every 55 minutes of sitting) and make sure they are active. Vacuum a room. Do some plyometrics. Walk up your stairs. Get a drink of water. These will help keep your energy up.
3. Find a good podcast. I listen to podcasts and sermonds while I rate. Because most are an hour long, they are also a good indication of when to take a break. They keep me interested and are a sort of reward for sitting down and getting to work.
4. Acknowledge the brain drain. Programs like Lionbridge are time-dependent. Each task has a time limit, the rating toolbar tracks your time, and you’re expected to track your own time. This means that logging one hour of rating time means you really did one hour of solid rating work. Working under such focused conditions can make you say “It’s only been one hour?!?!”. Most conventional jobs have opportunities for stretching, daydreaming, side conversations, and other small distractions that help to break up the hours. Be gracious with yourself when this happens, and take more breaks if need be.
5. Master opportunity cost logic. Programs like Lionbridge sometimes run out of tasks, and the list doesn’t auto-refresh. So you can sit at the computer and keep hitting F5, or you can get up and do something else while you wait. Getting up runs the risk of missing out on tasks, but refreshing the page might burn up half an hour before you get any new tasks. Only you can judge the best use of your time, so don’t hesitate to set some ground rules and let go of any “what ifs”.
6. Set yourself up for success. Just like any conventional job, make sure your environment is conducive to good work. Keep your space clean, well lit, and comfortable. Get a new desk chair if you have to. Keep water and snacks handy. Make sure there is good lighting and that your keyboard and mouse are functioning properly.
My friend, S., at Northwest Pearls had the opportunity to work from home for her media job, and has some useful information for people who are not doing internet-based tasks: Tips for Working From Home
I hope you found this post helpful! What do you do when you have a long day of computer work ahead?
This soup is so versatile, so clean, and so soothing on cold winter days. Let’s talk about all the parts, and then I’ll tell you how I made my most recent batch (it changes every time!). The list below is definitely pick and choose, mix and match, so go wild!
The base: chicken broth, beef broth, vegetable broth, water
The protein: roasted chicken, chickpeas, lentils, navy beans, kidney beans, Italian meatballs
The vegetables: kale, bok choy, bell peppers, tomatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, potatoes, sweet potatoes, celery, spinach
The flavorings: Thyme, cilantro, oregano, cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes, coconut milk, curry powder, salt, pepper, olive oil, parsley, red or white wine
The toppings (just before serving): fresh herbs, bread, grated Parmesan cheese, fresh pepper, Siracha or Tabasco, sliced hard boiled eggs
It’s important to chop vegetables to roughly equal sizes to ensure proper cooking. Cubed is best for most soups, unless you have a sore throat.
Put broth, flavorings, firm vegetables (carrots, potatoes, kale) and protein in a Crockpot on Low.
After 3-4 hours on Low, add soft vegetables (tomatoes, bell pepper, spinach, etc.) and more flavoring to taste.
After 2-3 more hours on Low (6-7 hours total), check for doneness. Potatoes and beans should be soft, kale should be wilted, onions should be transparent, and the other vegetables should be cooked but not falling apart.
My soup today has chicken broth, roasted chicken, lentils, kale, bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic, red pepper flakes, and a few tablespoons of olive oil. I will probably top it with Parmesan cheese. This has a pretty neutral flavor profile.
Curry stew: any base, any vegetables, potatoes, any protein, curry powder, red pepper flakes, coconut milk
Italian Wedding Soup: any base, Italian meatballs, spinach, celery, onions, garlic, carrots, parsley, grated Parmesan cheese
Cold-busting Chicken Soup: chicken broth, roasted chicken, carrots, onions, garlic, celery, cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes
I hope you enjoy this recipe!
“The weather is going to be just as snowy tomorrow, so I’ll just leave my winter boots in the foyer.”
“I’ll leave my makeup out on the bathroom counter; I’m going to be using it again tomorrow anyways!”
“I might head back out later today. No need to put my coat away in the closet; I’ll just leave it over the dining room chair.”
These are all real-life examples of thoughts I’ve had this week. These thoughts are made with good intentions and meant to be time savers. I’m sure there are many others that you could think of too. Daily-use items, like coats, boots, makeup, bags, and favorite foods could easily save us a few minutes if they were left out in easy reach.
I had a busy week. I got a handful of last-minute substitute teaching jobs, the weather was bad so my car had to be scraped off every morning, and some afternoons I was so exhausted that I left chores undone. So my boots made puddles in the foyer, my makeup stayed on the counter, and my coat stayed in the dining room. By the end of the week, I was picking up my things all over the place and spending a good deal of time returning them to their homes.
There are very good reasons to keep daily-use items in easy reach, but the reality is that items out of place, even useful items, are still clutter. And I can’t tell you the number of times when, even when I leave yesterday’s items out, I reach for something different the next day. Double the clutter! So my one simple tip for reducing clutter is this: live for today.
Living for today means you’re not thinking about what to leave out for tomorrow; you’ll decide what you need when the day is fresh the next morning. Living for today means ending it gracefully by putting away what you used. There are fewer loose ends, less frustration in the morning when you can’t remember where you left your things, and a calmer environment.
It’s helpful to save time where you can, especially for small matters. However, it might be time to judge the scales and ponder if that time-saving is taking peace from your space. This week, I challenge you to pick five items and use them one day at a time, putting them away when you are finished using them. For me, mine will be:
- My coat
- My winter boots
- My makeup
- My coffee fixings
- My office supplies, like my pens and post-it notes
What will you choose? Let me know in the comments if you try this little experiment, and how it made you feel at the end of the week.
Most creatives will recognize this concept of making time for analog creativity. Austin Kleon, author of Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work!, advocates for old-fashioned analog creativity. Analog creation, rather than digital, involve tangible objects such as pens, journals, and paints, coupled with the physical action of moving your hand. This process is fulfilling and energizing. Digital creation severs the connection between movement and creation, and increases the pressure for perfectionism (amen to that!). There is a place for the digital world in creative pursuits. Editing, refining, and sharing are steps that are greatly enhanced by digital means. But for the initial spark of creativity, analog actions can help us connect to something more primal and original. Too often, artists get down on themselves for their work not being “____ enough”. Misspellings, the wrong colors, and dead-end plots are unavoidable, but digital mediums push them under a rug and don’t recognize them as vital to the learning process. Analog creation saves a paper trail of what works and what doesn’t. If you’re feeling uninspired about your latest research paper, art project, or even your daily routine, it might be time to get out some analog tools, like the ones I compiled below, and spend less time comparing your rough drafts to someone else’s final edit.
I don’t paint or draw on my computer, but I do use it for most of my post writing. After reading Kleon’s thoughts on analog creativity, I have tried to draft more of my posts on paper. I’ve also been enjoying writing out meal plans, to-do lists, and calendars using pen and paper.
Watch Kleon’s TEDTalk here: Steal Like An Artist: Austin Kleon at TEDxKC
What mediums do you use to create?
At the end of January, it was too cold to run outside and too cramped in my tiny living room to do heart-racing HIIT. So I ordered a kettlebell and started sampling some workouts. Here are my thoughts on this workout method, as well as my three favorite routines.
A kettlebell is basically a weighted ball with a large, solid handle on top. The reason it is an excellent workout is physics. In most kettlebell moves, the weight is held far away from your body. The kettlebell turns your entire body into a lever and fulcrum. By adding more weight to the end of the lever, the rest of your body has to work harder to move it around. This gets your heartrate up doing simple, static exercises. Muscle-building kettlebell moves are slower and more stationary compared to dumbbell sets; your body is already working hard enough to try to stabilize the extra weight at the end of your wrist!
The only downside to kettlebells is that form is vitally important to prevent injury, and therefore cannot be modified. With other workouts, like Pilates, there are easy modifications within the form for beginners. With kettlebells, the only modifications are fewer reps or a lighter weight.
Kettlebells worked out great for my small space and my boredom with repetitive routines!
Picking out your Kettlebell
Kettlebells come in weights ranging from 5 pounds up to 40-50 pounds (ridiculous). Kettlebells should generally be heavier than the dumbbells you might typically use, because in general you will be holding or swinging the weight and not lifting it.
I use a 15 pound kettlebell, for reference. I’m 5’0″ and I’m not carrying extra weight, but I’m not muscular, I can do about two chin ups, and I can hold a plank for ages. The 15 pound kettlebell feels appropriate for most parts of my workouts. In all of these videos, there are some moves that I simply have to do fewer reps on.
The best way to pick out a kettlebell is to try one in stores. Brush up on the form for a few kettlebell moves, like the rack and the windmill. Try these out (carefully!) next time you’re at a sporting goods store. They should be challenging but not unbearable, and shaking is not a good sign. Once you have your ideal weight, shop around for the best price. I found mine on Amazon.
All of the routines I’m about to suggest show no one in wrist guards. I can’t imagine the bruises on these instructors’ arms after their routines. Before you do too many racks, Turkish get-ups, and locks, get yourself some wrist guards. I like these ones, because they’re bright and the padding is all the way around. Having the wrist guards on gives me the confidence to be more aggressive with the kettlebell
For Cardio: This one has plenty of modifications, and it really gets my heart rate up.
For Total Body Toning: After doing this one, my laterals were so sore for the first time in ages!
For a Quick Boost: I did this one on a day when I was tired from a lack of sleep. It was a really nice pick me up!
Do you use kettlebells? What are your favorite routines?
Here’s a post for the girls: do you know your sister size?
When I was getting my undergarments for my wedding dress, I learned about sister sizes. In general, most people can comfortably wear three different bra sizes, not just one. I was floored, but also so relieved, when an undergarment in one of my sister sizes fit better than the one that I had thought was the only size I could wear.
How do you find your sister size? To find the “size up” option, just go up one cup size and down one band size than your usual. The “size down” option is the opposite: one cup down and one band size larger. So a 36C, for example, has sister sizes of 34D and 38B. Keep these in mind next time you’re out shopping and try it out yourself.
How can this save you money? I love shopping for bras in the clearance section. For the most part, since it’s an undergarment, I’m not trying to follow trends or stick to certain colors. Having three size options instead of just one makes it easier to score a deal. If one of your sister sizes lands you in a size that is especially small or large, then you will have luck in online clearance deals, which often feature the less common sizes at either end of the size range.
I hope this post has been helpful, but I know it won’t work for all body types. Still, bra shopping is sometimes a frustrating experience, so any tips help.
Transformation Tuesday is a series covering wardrobe transformations. I hope it challenges you to expand the form and function of pieces in your closet.
A recent trip to the thrift store yielded this green and white Banana Republic graphic dress. As you can see, it could stand to be taken in at the sides, and perhaps the sleeves could be shortened to a more flattering 3/4 length. But that may be a project for another day. For now, it’s cold outside, and I know I’ll be layering this piece with other items so the cut is not as important as it would be if I were wearing it alone.
Whenever I see a dress, I also see a blouse. Today I styled my new dress as a top. Tucking it into a pencil skirt fixed the fit issue, and I just pushed up the sleeves with my cardigan I really like that I’m not drowning in the print after covering the bottom and sleeves with some solid pieces. Also, yay for my kitchen having the best light in the house!
How would you style a graphic dress?
Just a quick post to be honest: I have writer’s block, artist’s block, cooking block, leaving the house block, everything! The theme of my life is things on hold: I’m waiting for two different applications to go through so that I can substitute teach, I’m waiting for exam results so that I can do a work-from-home job, and I’m waiting for this creative block to let up.
There are definitely posts in the works that you can look forward to, and perhaps listing them here will remind me that someone, somewhere, may be hoping I get to writing sooner rather than later:
- Banana Bread recipe
- Analog Creativity Day
- Germaphobe Devotional
- Instant Coffee Devotional
- Favorite Kettlebell Workouts
- How I Write Lesson Plans
Clouds, rock, snow, sky. A lot of tricky texture and transparency, but I was happy that I at least painted something, and that Pikes Peak looks like Pikes Peak and not a different pile of granite.