Tips for Working From Home for Lionbridge

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?

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Mix-and-Match Clean and Hearty Soup Recipe

Mix-and-Match Clean and Hearty Soup || amayawrites

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

Mix-and-Match Clean and Hearty Soup Recipe ||amayawrites

Isn’t this napkin too cute? My sister in law made a set for every holiday!

Instructions:

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.

Mix-and-Match Clean and Hearty Soup Recipe ||amayawritesSome other options include:

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

Mix-and-Match Clean and Hearty Soup Recipe ||amayawritesI hope you enjoy this recipe!

One Simple Tip to Reduce Clutter

“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.

How Knowing Your Sister Bra Size Can Help You Save Money

How Knowing Your Sister Bra Size Can Help You Save Money || amayawritesHere’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: Graphic Dress to Graphic Blouse

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!

Transformation Tuesday: Graphic Dress  to Graphic Blouse|| amayawrites

Dress – Banana Republic (thrifted)
Cardigan – Target Merona
Skirt – Ann Taylor LOFT
Fleece-lined leggings

How would you style a graphic dress?

My Five Favorite Kitchen Goodies

Most of you know that I recently graduated and I am now living at home in Colorado Springs. As I was laying in bed yesterday, it was still hard to believe that I won’t ever have to relocate or live alone again!

One of my favorite things about being home is getting back to cooking. I’m not a gourmet chef by any means. I don’t eat a lot of meat, I’m still learning what spices do what, and I didn’t grow up with heirloom recipes, like cookies or casseroles. I recently tried to bake yeast bread, but instead I discovered three ways to bake bricks. But I still love it. My kitchen is my favorite place in the house, and part of the charm are my favorite appliances lining my counter space.

1. Kitchenaid Mixer

KitchenAid Stand Mixer

I was NOT expecting to have this until after the wedding, but on Christmas day Ben put a heavy box on my lap and this was in it. In red. I am still learning how to use it to its full potential, but just as an example of how it’s already changing my life, I made waffles the other morning and even put in the effort to whip the egg whites.

2. Bialleti Moka ExpressMoka Pot

I make coffee with this every morning for a rich, dark brew that I mix with equal parts almond milk. With fresh grounds, it even produces a small amount of crema. To keep my pot newer longer, I boil my water in my kettle first, then put it in the bottom chamber. That way, the actual Moka pot spends a lot less time on direct heat, and I don’t have to wait as long for the coffee.

3. CrockpotCrockpot

The “-riginal” slow cooker! We really love our crockpot to death for making whole chickens and roasts. My basic recipe is four quartered potatoes, half an onion, diced, four cloves of garlic, minced, and half a cup of liquid (either water or a splash of whatever wine is open). Last year, I made coq au vin in the Crockpot and it turned out fantastic.

4. Immersion BlenderImmersion Blender

I make a smoothie many times a week. For single servings, this immersion blender is perfect because I don’t have to rinse out a big blender pitcher (don’t you hate how those little berry seeds stick to the sides?). This has also been valuable for blending parakeet food (more on how we care for our birds later).

5. Olive Oil MisterOil Mister

We received this vaporizer as a gift from our real estate agent. Just a few pumps and it produces a nice, even spray of our own olive oil, great for browning onions, lining a baking pan, or separating pasta

I hope you enjoyed this list and that it inspired you to take a grateful survey of your favorite things around your house. What are you must-have kitchen items?

How I Manage A Capsule Wardrobe in College

I didn’t mean to end up with a capsule wardrobe. I’m aware of the process and admire the concept, but packing for my last semester of undergrad, I didn’t think about putting together a small wardrobe, or keeping my items under a certain number. I did ruthlessly choose only the items that I loved and felt comfortable in. I did a few edits this weekend, pulling out my few summery pieces and putting them away. I put everything back in my closet and did a quick count. Including my two jackets and two cocktail dresses, I have 35 items.wadrobe.jpg

Not all of my clothes are pictured, and I didn’t count my scarves or shawls even though they are picture.

The totals are:

  • 4 skirts
  • 2 body-con dresses
  • 2 cocktail dresses
  • 4 pants
  • 5 sweaters
  • 2 dolman tops
  • 4 nice tee-shirts
  • 2 plain black long sleeve shirts
  • 1 denim button-up
  • 4 tank tops
  • 3 cardigans
  • 2 coats

I do laundry about twice a month; it’s easier now that I am wearing boots because before I was limited by the number of invisible socks I have. I wear most of my garments twice before washing them, unless they get stained. It’s not apparent to anyone that I have a small wardrobe, or else they’re just not commenting on it.

I’m just so pleased every time I open my little closet and see my favorite things; looking put together has become convenient because I simply don’t have very casual clothes (by choice – capsule wardrobes can certainly exude casual style if the owner desires). Even when I wear my wide-legged jeans and a loose sweater, the colors and fabric are on point so it never looks sloppy.

I can tell that I am on the verge of needing to replace a fair amount of my items as my taste in fabric changes (matures, maybe). For example, I have a bright red sundress that is made with a very swingy jersey; it was a favorite when I got it a few years ago, but these days I desire a thicker, sturdier fabric for dresses and will probably replace it with a ponte fabric piece. Some of my items are getting to be four years old and starting to look it with pilling and color fading. I am starting to research the lifespan of higher-end clothes, as these four-year old items are the exception, not the norm, of the places I tend to shop at.

Capsule Wardrobe Resources:

How I Care for my Clothes

A few simple practices have allowed me to keep my clothes fresh-looking, well-maintained, and wearable for many years. Besides learning to recognize good fabrics and quality brands, these care tips are how I stretch the lifespan of my clothes.

  • I wash all my clothes in cold water in the machine. Workout clothes, sweaters, undergarments, and washable hand-knits are all put in. If I have to hand-wash, I still use cold water.
  • I turn anything with lace, a printed design, or other appliques inside out to prevent fading and fraying. Like this Xhiliration dress from Target.

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  • I also turn my dark denim inside out to prevent fading and bleeding onto other objects. Like this Ann Taylor Loft pencil skirt

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  • I put all bras, fancier undergarments, and hand-knit socks in these mesh lingerie bags from Target. They sell for under $2 and are great to have on hand. I also place any garment with long ties, such as this teal shirt, so that the ties won’t get wrapped and stretched during the wash.

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  • If it’s not a casual tee shirt, workout clothes, plain underwear, or jeans, then it gets air dried. This might be why my clothes stay fresh for so long. This does mean my drying rack is overflowing and there are sweaters drying on towels on top of the machine. But when I remember that lint is frayed fibers from your clothes, I am happy to take this step to ensure that my items don’t wither away bit by bit. If my clothes seem to have dust or fibers on them, I use a lint roller, which is much gentler.
  • I hang most of my clothes on appropriate, sturdy hangers. If I feel that a dress is especially drapey and heavy, I will take its weight off the straps by looping the skirt of the dress back up over the hanger. This helps it keep its shape longer.
  • I don’t fold my hand-knit socks in each other, because this stretches out the yarn and I find that the sock that was folded over the other tends to fit looser around my ankle. Commercial socks with more nylon can handle this.
  • I put on and remove my clothes carefully. This means not tugging at sweaters, pulling up my jeans by the belt loops, or taking off my shoes by pressing the back of the heel down (like the picture below). I unzip, unlace, and unclip everything.

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My go-to brands for quality and longevity are Ann Taylor and Ann Taylor Loft, Mossimo (Target) for shoes, Take Out (Kohls) for cardigans, Hanes Concealing Petals for bras, and C9 (Target) for activewear. If a cotton item (like tees and jeans) is very soft, I usually won’t buy it because it doesn’t tend to hold up. I avoid slub knit fabric because it pills unevenly and looks “tired” very fast. My most tenacious purchases have been a pair of cardigans by Take Out (at Kohls) which are a cotton and acrylic blend. They are nothing fancy, upscale, or even very soft, but I’ve worn them at least once a week for the past four years and they are still good as gold. So sometimes you can find surprises, although two Take Out pullovers I bought the same year lasted just one season because they pilled immediately

I hope these tips help you with the care of your wardrobe.