Tag Archives: tasks

Photo Friday: Vacation!

The schmaltz around this here blog surrounding Dave’s birthday and our anniversary has gotten pretty thick. But I can’t help myself, I’m writing about Dave again. Don’t worry, this is quick and not schmaltzy.

We went on vacation last week and I couldn’t believe the difference in our packing lists. Prize (the No Shit Award) for first correct guess as to which one is Dave’s…

No seriously, check out Dave’s packing list.

When I saw it, I couldn’t help but wonder aloud, “Are you still working on this?” Nope, he was done. I wish I could be as carefree as “yep, just need some ‘sox’ and my guitar and I’m all set.” Instead, I agonize over whether we are forgetting anything. Say, for example, Dave’s toothbrush, which somehow didn’t make his list.

Since these are lame photos and since our vacation was wonderful and worth documenting, here is our little family self-portrait at the beach. I wasn’t going to bother trying to get a shot of all three of us, but then was inspired on our last night by the enormous family (at least I assumed they were family because there is no excuse for the matching outfits otherwise) doing a self-portrait at sunset. Can’t tell you how many tries this took. We really suck at self-portraits. My camera doesn’t seem to want to focus on us. And trying to get Chuck to look at the camera when we are behind him is always fun. At some point, in my haste to get into position after setting the timer, I accidentally slammed my knee down on the sand way. too. hard. What a great photo that was.

Where’s your favorite vacation spot? First week back after vacation’s a bitch, no? Any ideas for easing back in more smoothly, because I seriously want to run to the hills and not come back?

Master of Efficiency

The other day I took a little break from work to check on the Twitter. Cordelia Calls It Quits linked to an interesting-sounding post from Zen Habits, so I clicked the link.

The post was indeed interesting. It suggested doing something only once and doing it immediately when it first grabs your attention. This resonated with me like you wouldn’t believe. I definitely have issues with this. I’ll open an email and not feel like dealing with it right then, so I’ll just close it and move on. But eventually I have to deal with it and I have to read it again to do so. Waste of time.

Or the time I did hours of internet research on places to go in Belgium in my initial excitement of deciding to go there for our 10th anniversary. I told myself I was just brainstorming. I didn’t bookmark stuff or make any real notes. Then a week before our departure, I had to scramble to do all that research again. So dumb.

About halfway through reading the Zen Habits post, I started feeling guilty about checking Twitter when I should be working. Without irony, I made a mental note to finish reading that post later…you know, the post about dealing with things only once.

It would be funny if it weren’t so pitiful.

How about you? Do you put things off that you could do right then or do you take care of them right away as they come up? How do you balance your own to do list with the things other people bring to you throughout the day?

The Joys Of Home Ownership

If my responsibilities would just fuck off for a minute, that would be great. I don’t need any more lemonade making tasks added to my schedule. I’m busy.

I would soak in a tub of Calgon if I thought it would take me away. But I probably shouldn’t introduce any additional liquid into this house. With my luck, the tub would fall through the kitchen ceiling.

When we moved in 2006, we purposely bought a home that had been completely renovated. We seem to have a “please screw us” sign on our backs, so we wanted to minimize having to deal with contractors.

Everyone was so impressed with the house we bought. Our realtor was salivating over it. The home inspector rhapsodized about how well it was built. The two other bidders who drove up the damn price loved it too.

When water seeped in through the foundation and ruined part of our entertainment center in the finished portion of the basement, I took it in stride. We didn’t even have to pay to fix that. Dave diagnosed and fixed the problem himself. Go Dave.

When we learned that the A/C unit in the attic didn’t have an appropriate emergency back up pipe to avoid leaks, I was pissed but basically took it in stride. We fixed it before it was ever a problem.

When water started dripping through the ceiling in the master bedroom, I took it in stride. OK, that’s a lie. The dripping woke me up and forced me to sleep on the futon in the guest room and that really made me cranky. But a thousand dollars later, the roof seems fixed and there’s only the tiniest spot of water damage on the ceiling that will inevitably stay there until we want to sell.

When Dave said there was water in the basement over Easter weekend and he didn’t know why, I lost my shit.

Call me picky, but I prefer NOT to have water in places not meant to house water.

Memories of our previous place, a townhouse built of sugar cubes, filled my mind with dread. Every day that fucker sprung a new leak. Fixing those leaks so that we could sell the house was one of the most frustrating experiences of my life. Not a single one of the endless parade of contractors that came out had any fucking idea what was causing the water to pour through our kitchen ceiling every time there was a hard rain. We had the roof over the window re-caulked multiple times. We had the seal on the second floor windows checked, we had the brick and flashing inspected. We considered giving up and trying to promote the leak to potential buyers as a “water feature”.

Our realtor said no. So it came to a physicist and a social science researcher having to diagnose the problem. We are available for consultation, call now.

Dave cut a big hole in the kitchen ceiling, so we could shove our heads up there and see what was going on and also so the mold spores could escape their confinement. It wasn’t raining at the time and even if it were, I don’t know what the hell we thought we’d see up there that would help (unfortunately there was no shoelace untied or snowman with his hat blown off…check out 23:35 to 26:50 of the video below).

Once we cut the hole, it completely stopped raining for days and days. Our new pastime became watering the house with a hose while standing on a ladder. Yes, this looked just as odd as you might think.

Things we learned:

* Brick is porous!

* I’m allergic to mold!

* Contractors suck!

* We should move!

So we bought this newly renovated house. The current leak here came from a burst pipe going to the fridge. Ironically, this is the same pipe that has been failing to provide water for the ice cube maker and filtered water dispenser for over a year (the plumber said it was the fridge; the appliance repair man said it was the plumbing, we said fuck it and bought a Brita pitcher).

Score one for the plumber because even though water wasn’t getting to the fridge, it sure as hell got everywhere else it wasn’t supposed to go when the pipe burst, as evidenced by the water in the basement, the mold growing behind the fridge and the damage to the wood floor and the pantry cabinet.

It is not exactly clear what to do. Our high bid is definitely a Cadillac–$2500 just for mold remediation, not including reconstruction afterward. We’d likely be without the use of our kitchen for a while as the area would be blocked off during the work. This firm also suggests we hire a separate firm to create the plan and inspect the work, to the tune of an additional $1000. The low bid came last week in the form of a guy who essentially told Dave he should put some Windex on it. Voila, problem solved.

But at least we have ants!

My Mind On My Money And My Money On My Mind

Does this spreadsheet make me look anal?

Biggie said “mo’ money, mo’ problems,” but I say “mo’ money, earlier retirement” (unlike Jay-Z, I’m serious about retirement), so we started working with a financial planner several years ago. One of the first things he asked us to do was create a budget. At the time, he didn’t know the kind of behavior he was enabling.

(When I was younger I got a tee-shirt for my birthday that said “Does anal-retentive have a hyphen?”. Everyone at my party roared with laughter, but I wasn’t 100% sure what that term meant or how it applied to me. Didn’t sound good, so I looked it up (because, as it turns out, I am anal), and saw that the definition included the following helpful explanatory terms: meticulous, compulsive, and rigid. Yes, yes, and yet still more yes.)

You could say I’m compelled to document things. You never know when you might need information on things you did, food you ate, or money you spent several months or even years ago, right? Dave likes to tease me when I’m talking excitedly about some new idea by saying “I think you need a spreadsheet for that.” And I probably do.

Our financial planner wanted us to track our spending for a few months. But I created the following budget template and have entered every cent we spend into it since 2005.

The problem

This is admittedly old school and time consuming. For years, I entered transactions several times a month, sometimes during a Friday lunch break and often catching up on weekends. This worked for years, until it didn’t. Demands on my time increased and, I don’t know, maybe I got a life or something, because I just stopped feeling like spending significant chunks of my weekends catching up on this task.

Last year, I stuffed my expandable zip envelope with receipts until it no longer closed. The stack of monthly statements grew higher. At the end of each weekend without having made any progress, I moved the budget task to the next weekend in Good Todo. That is how I came to spend over 16 hours of my Christmas vacation entering our 2010 spending into the spreadsheet.

SIXTEEN HOURS. Merry Fucking Christmas.

Frustrating when I stopped to consider that’s only about 20 minutes a week if I’d just kept up with it throughout the year. But here’s the thing, it’s already April and I’ve entered only a handful of receipts and the January statements so far. So I have considered saying screw it, five years is enough, I know what we spend, we are OK, I quit. But I am compelled to keep tracking our spending, it gives us piece of mind. Our optional and incidental expenses are not very predictable, and even our regular spending sometimes surprises us, so keeping the spreadsheet helps us stay on track.

For example, did you know that although our household consists of two people and a dog, we spend a third of what the Duggars spend on food each month at the grocery store (assuming their restaurant budget is separate, otherwise we spend TWO-thirds what the Duggars spend on food each month)? Of course you didn’t know this and we didn’t either, until we tracked our spending. There is no way we would ever have guessed we spent that amount.

The key to saving money on groceries???

Which of course is the key ingredient of this

Keeping the budget spreadsheet also helps us decide when we can splurge and how much. For example, a few weeks ago I happened upon the most adorable bag (see below, adorable right?). While it cost more than I usually spend on such a thing , we made an instant “connection” (if I were watching the Bachelor right now, Dave would tell me to take a drink). I loved it, I knew how I would use it, and I knew we could afford it. So I bought it and didn’t feel one bit guilty or anxious about it.

The Solution?

So I decided to continue to keep the budget spreadsheet, but do some research into options for making the task more efficient. Our financial advisor suggested that using an online system like Mint might make my life easier. I didn’t think that my budgeting needs were very demanding, but apparently they are because I haven’t found anything suitable.

What do I want in a budgeting service?

  1. Automatic updates for my key accounts (checking, credit cards)
  2. Customizability of budget categories
  3. Ability to retain ownership of my own data

I signed up for Mint and spent a little time setting up my key accounts and looking at the different features. I don’t need most of what they offer–fancy budgeting tools, colorful charts, or emails warning me that I spent more than usual on clothing last month (I know, I bought a purse, I was there!).

What I really want is for someone else to update my budget spreadsheet for me. In lieu of that (!), I would settle for being able to export my budget information in a way that allows me to easily recreate my spreadsheet or something close to it. But Mint is apparently the Apple of online budgeting and does not want you to be able to manipulate your own data. There isn’t an option for exporting your budget, only individual transactions. Organizing an export of transactions into a useful form (you know, by category and date) would take even longer than my current process.

Mint’s connection to my bank is also wonky. Mint wasn’t able to update my checking account transactions for over two months, but today it magically worked. So even if I were willing to give up on the exporting function, I would not be confident that Mint would have up to date bank transactions.

Unless I find a tool that meets all of my needs, I am stuck entering all of my transactions manually. Am I missing a great tool that offers all three of my critical features? What tools do you use to track your spending?

Do You Have A Minute?

I’ve been meaning to link to this for weeks, but I’ve been steady busy, as my Dad would say. Catalogliving.net cracks me up, but this (semi) recent entry really spoke to me given my task-timing experiment.

Is the fact that this entry is funny a sign that it would be rude to use my timer to limit office intrusions??? Because my first reaction to this entry was to laugh, and my second reaction was, what a brilliant idea, Elaine…

A Great Big Bundle of Joy

Holy shit, it’s December.

This turn of events is horrifying–where did 2010 go exactly? On the other hand, yesterday I got to open door number one on my Neuhaus advent calendar. Beyond all reason is a good way to describe the way I love Neuhaus chocolate. Look at how adorable this year’s advent calendar is…

So this means it’s Christmas time, and there’s no need to be afraid.  But I am a little afraid of my to do list.

Christmas was magical for me as a child. What’s not to love about Christmas as a kid, with the special events, vacation from school, the cookies, and the much-anticipated presents. Some of my childhood home life was, shall we say, unsatisfying, but at Christmas things seemed different. Christmas somehow lightened my father’s mood and the tension in the house that often permeated our day-to-day existence dissipated during the holidays. The front two rooms of our house were transformed by the tree and the beautiful soft glow of Christmas lights and our ridiculous, but awesome life-size light-up Santa. I can still feel the warmth and coziness of our house at Christmas and remember fondly all the traditions we religiously upheld (cutouts frosted in pink, orange-flavored drop cookies frosted in green, driving around the neighborhood to see light displays–the house with lights that blinked in different colors blew my mind, and even where we all sat to open gifts on Christmas morning). Christmas was like cuddling under a favorite blanket.

I started counting down the days more than a month out and created elaborate color-coded countdown calendars (now I have an electronic countdown timer because I am more mature and sophisticated).

I’m not sure when I turned this corner exactly, but lately I’ve started to see Christmas more as something to get through than something to look forward to and that depresses the crap out of me. Now if I want cookies, guess who’s baking them? Right, that would be me. (Shout out to my Mom for still making the traditional green-frosted orange cookies I loved as a child). Even if I don’t want something, I just might be making it.  Also, as a child, your Mom wraps up shaving soap for your Dad for you and your gift-giving is complete. As an adult, you are expected to put more effort into the giving. When I have a great gift idea for a loved one, usually my Mom or Dave, I get pretty jazzed about the giving. When I don’t have great ideas, or even OK ideas, which seems to happen more and more frequently, I feel gift-giving performance anxiety.

A couple of years ago, I found myself lingering in a surprisingly wistful way on a catalog page depicting a mother and daughter in matching flannel nightgowns sitting by their Christmas tree. Panic-stricken, I thought “am I changing my mind about having children?!?” I started to imagine myself in this catalog scenario and realized that I didn’t see myself as the mother in that picture. Imagining myself as the mother did not replicate the warm and fuzzy feeling. No, I was wistful about being the kid.

As I was writing this post, one that was originally intended to be about my Christmas to do list and trying to rekindle the joy, a possible explanation hit me for the dampening of my enthusiasm (I mean, in addition to having to create the magic myself now rather than my parents being responsible). Christmas used to be more interactive, a shared experience among family and friends. My immediate family was never large,  but through the early years of high school, my Gram was around to celebrate with and now she’s gone. In high school, my music class practiced Christmas songs for weeks and it was so engaging and special. We sang this absolutely hideous yet wonderful song called “Jazzy Jinglin’ Bells” (go ‘head, baby) which I will never forget even though it’s been 23 years (gulp). Our foreign language teachers taught us “Silent Night” and we sang the song in English, French, and Spanish at the Christmas assembly.

Making many different kinds of cookies has felt like such drudgery during recent Christmases. I was in high school when I first started this tradition. My friends used to come over and keep me company while I baked. In fact, there’s a cookie I can’t make without them. Napoleon Hats are almond-flavored cutouts filled with a ball made of almond paste and shaped to look like a tri-cornered hat. I’m too spatially challenged to shape these cookies myself. I get the dough made, rolled out, cut into circles, the almond paste balls placed in the middle and then… Yeah, try as I might to make three equally sized folds on a circular-piece of dough, I cannot do it so that it stays or looks like a Napoleon Hat. Miss you Erin and Sarah and Kristen, come help me make cookies!

In college, the University Choir hosted an annual “Boar’s Head” dinner. As a member of the choir, I helped serve the dinner to my fellow students and prior to each course we sang a festive holiday song. Wassail! In college and the years immediately after, visiting home at Christmas was a chance to catch up with everyone. In more recent years, I’ve lost touch with some friends and others have since moved away from my hometown.

One of my favorite Christmas-related memories is from a visit to Dave’s hometown when we were still dating. I can still make myself crack up thinking about the time we went shopping with Dave’s friend Jim on this visit. Dave and I were looking to spice up our Christmas music collection and Jim offered to buy him a CD for Christmas. Dave selected Acid X-mas. We popped the CD into the car’s player and cranked it up for the drive home. I will NEVER forget the look on Jim’s face as the first strains of “Carol of the Bells (A Demonic Christmas)” washed over us. We laughed so hard I thought I’d be sick. I can’t even remember how long it’s been since we’ve seen Jim.

So adulthood might take some of the shine off Christmas for more than one reason. At this point, I no longer want to provide a boring list of my Christmas to dos. Suffice it to say that it’s long, and that in my new time management spirit, I have created a spreadsheet (I know!) to ensure that completing it all is actually a do-able feat. I’ll probably share the fruits of some of the tasks here, but as for the list, who gives a shit. I’ve thought about cutting back, but I realize there’s a reason I do all this stuff. The tree is pretty. The gifts give people pleasure or at least let people know you care about them. The photo calendars let me use the photographs I’ve taken over the year in a creative way rather than just staying trapped on my computer. People enjoy the cookies and the buckeyes I make. And I’m GLAD that people enjoy the fruits of my labor.

Happy Advent!

Thanksgiving To Do List

Timing my tasks and scheduling tasks to days based on estimated time (to avoid over booking) has been going really well at work. This time management scheme has helped me stay more focused and be more productive.

Following this scheme is more difficult on the weekend. On work days, it’s clear that my planned tasks shouldn’t add to more than 8 hours. It’s harder to know what figure I should use for a day off. Last Saturday, the buckeyes consumed my day so I just wanted to relax on Sunday. And I hadn’t taken any time to prioritize my to do list for Sunday so I ended up spending too long troubleshooting a problem with my Flip camera which wasn’t even on my to do list.

So I’m trying to be more explicit about plans for my Thanksgiving vacation time. I have four days off (plus travel days) and would really love to tackle the following tasks (not to mention enjoy the time off!):

The screenshot of my to do list above shows how I’ve been assigning estimated completion times to tasks so that I can assign tasks to days. When I finish a task, I add the actual completion time to the end of the task. Some of the tasks on the list are very quick errands while others are long-standing “someday” to dos that I want to get some traction (not to be confused with Sal’s definition of traction) on during my time off.

Tomorrow I plan to assign these tasks to days. One of the things I am thankful for: that cooking Thanksgiving dinner isn’t on my to do list. My lovely and talented husband is the chef in the family. My assistance will involve taking the dog on a long walk while Dave cooks, stopping at the store in the morning to pick up the required yet somehow forgotten item (you forgot cranberries too??), and refereeing the bickering between Dave and my Mom about the kind of turkey she bought.  Happy Thanksgiving!

How to Make Buckeyes

The 2010 buckeye making is complete. It didn’t seem quite as bad as usual. Making the dough the night before was a good idea. That took about an hour on Friday (it took longer because I was taking pictures and had to set up the camera, etc…). Then I spent between 5 and 6 hours on the buckeyes on Saturday. It’s a commitment.

Here are the ingredients. Healthy-looking, no?

The first step is to mix the softened butter and peanut butter together. Not that this picture is critical, but because I love my green mixer, here is what the peanut butter and butter look like after they are mixed together.

Adding the powdered sugar is where this gets interesting. Every year I try to use the mixer to get as much of the 3 pounds of sugar into the dough as possible and every year I have to give up and use my hands to knead the last pound or so. I hate having to knead the dough by hand so I like to take the mixer part right to the brink of buckeye dough explosion. The dough in the next picture is trying to make a break for it. Thankfully, this year I made considerably less mess and inhaled considerably less powdered sugar than usual. Dave thinks I might be able to get all the sugar mixed in if I had the larger 6-quart Kitchen Aid, but they don’t make it in green, so that’s not an option.

Here is what the dough looks like with all the powdered sugar almost fully incorporated. I chilled the dough overnight since I planned to roll the buckeyes the next day. After I took the dough out of the fridge, it took about an hour for the dough to warm up enough to roll.

The recipe I use says that the rolling “takes forever, so turn on a good movie and begin to roll balls.” The first few years I made buckeyes, I fought the movie-watching suggestion. I was worried about spilling dough in the living room and didn’t want the process to take any longer than it had to. But you end up standing for hours to dip the buckeyes, so it’s silly to stand for rolling when you can sit and be entertained by something else. The first year I took the movie suggestion, I chose “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” That wasn’t a good selection. Some crying took place during that movie, which interfered with the rolling. This year I watched “Marie Antoinette,” which save for a scene in which they take away her dog, was a tear-free choice.

The recipe also says to “try not to eat too many during the movie.” I have never been even remotely tempted to stick a piece of buckeye dough sans chocolate coating into my mouth. But if that turns you on, go for it, who am I to judge? The rolling took me about 2 hours and 45 minutes this year, but I was distracted by the movie. I think I’ve been able to do this in 2 hours before.

My favorite part of the recipe is the uselessness of the instruction on size. The recipe calls for the dough to be rolled into balls that are “buckeye size.” I use a small ice cream scoop (size 70) to portion out the dough. The recipe says it yields about 100-120 buckeyes, but I have always gotten about 12 dozen. My feeling is that if you are going to go through all this work, you might as well try to get as many buckeyes as possible. This year I made 138 buckeyes and I think they are plenty big. Here they are—chilling before their chocolate dip.

The recipe calls for melting chocolate chips with some paraffin. The first year I made them, I followed this suggestion and they tasted fine. But because mixing wax into my food freaked me out and also because I like to make things more difficult, the next few years we tempered chocolate for the dipping. I say “we” because I needed Dave’s help to do this. So then we were both cranky. Then we moved on to trying to melt chocolate chips without breaking their temper. Don’t do this, you will want to kill yourself. To avoid breaking the temper, you have to keep the chocolate at a temperature which won’t allow the chocolate to get thin enough to dip the balls easily. And it takes forever to melt chocolate chips this way (if you try to do it faster the temperature will get too high and then the chocolate won’t set up after dipping the balls). Now I use milk chocolate melting caps from Romolo’s. Romolo’s is a handmade chocolate shop in my hometown that I visit pretty much daily every time I’m in Erie. The caps melt easily and the buckeyes are just as good dipped in this chocolate. In fact, several people actually noticed the difference and said the buckeyes were better this way. So yea, Romolo’s!

Once the chocolate is melted, you can dip the chilled balls. I use a wooden skewer for the dipping and a second skewer to ease the dipped buckeyes onto wax paper. The second skewer becomes less necessary the more the balls soften. When the balls get too soft, they’ll dive right back into the chocolate before you can get them to the wax paper, which is not at all annoying. The dipping took me 2.5 hours this year. Here is a ball getting its buckeye chocolate dip.

I tested one the night I made them and it was perfectly fine. But the magic of eating them is gone for me. All I taste is my effort, if that makes any sense. Here is a shot of the buckeyes resting before I packed them for freezing.

Here is the recipe.


1 lb. butter, room temperature

2 lbs. peanut butter, creamy

3 lbs. powdered sugar


2 bags chocolate chips (NOTE: I used slightly less than 3 bags—1 lb. each—of Romolo’s milk chocolate melting caps)

2-3 oz. paraffin (NOTE: I don’t use this)


1.) Cream peanut butter and butter together. Gradually add powdered sugar and mix well. By the end you may need to use your fingers and knead it to get it all mixed.

2.) Roll mixture into balls* – buckeye size. Makes between 100-120 balls. Refrigerate balls for at least an hour. They dip better when chilled.

EDITED 12/4 to ADD: Just saw that someone found this post by searching on “buckeye recipe keep in freezer until ready to dip in chocolate.” Maybe it won’t matter if you use paraffin, but I strongly recommend not freezing the undipped buckeyes. We did that one year to save space in the fridge, and the condensation on the balls as they thawed messed up the chocolate when we started dipping (water and melted chocolate don’t like each other).

3.) Melt chocolate and paraffin in a double boiler. Test your chocolate by dipping one ball and letting it sit for 5 minutes. If the chocolate has set, your chocolate is ready. Continue to dip balls by using a square toothpick (thick ones). Press toothpick into chilled balls and dip into chocolate leaving an eye opening on top to look like a buckeye. Then, take another toothpick to gently press perpendicular to the toothpick in the buckeye to slide it off onto wax paper.

4.) Chill dipped buckeyes until firm (NOTE: if your chocolate is tempered properly this is unnecessary). Then, line the buckeyes in containers with wax paper between layers and keep in the freezer until ready to serve.

*Note: this takes forever, so turn on a good movie and begin to roll balls—try not to eat too many during the movie.

The Fucking Buckeyes

The season of buckeyes is nigh. Buckeyes are balls made of a sweetened peanut butter and butter mixture dipped in chocolate.

Sounds delicious, no? They are especially delicious if someone else makes them. My sister-in-law from Ohio (buckeyes = Ohio state tree) brought buckeyes to my in-laws’ Christmas get together a few years ago. I ate 900 of them. Seriously, none of the others got any. Since I thought I couldn’t live without them, I asked how to make them.

The next year, I made them. Making buckeyes myself has been successful from a weight-maintenance perspective, because I have completely lost my desire to eat them. I only know that the buckeyes I make are any good because friends and family seem to love them. Socially speaking, I suppose I would still be allowed to go home for Christmas and be invited to holiday parties without bringing buckeyes, but the welcome would be more tepid.

So since I introduced my family and friends to the buckeye goodness, now I have to make them every year.  And verily, verily I say unto thee, making the fucking buckeyes is a pain in the ass. I plan to document the merriment of the annual buckeye making this weekend, complete with tips and photos. I’ve enlisted Dave to take the photos since my hands will be coated in buttered peanut butter all day. Dave’s also been instructed to leave me out of the photos since I generally don’t have time to shower or brush my hair the day I do this thing.

I’m writing about the buckeyes now prior to the tutorial so that I can get the use of the word fuck out of my system in case anyone ever reaches this site through an honest desire to know how to make the fucking buckeyes.

Also, because I’m documenting my tasks and productivity here I want to assert…this year is going to be different. This year, the buckeye making is not going to suck. Plans for reducing the suck include:

  • breaking up the three stages of grief buckeye making into two days by making the dough the night before
  • doing the rest on Saturday rather than Sunday and starting earlier in the day (procrastination usually leaves me dipping the damn things in chocolate in the wee hours of Monday morning)
  • sitting down and relaxing with a movie during the two hours of rolling time

A buckeye-loving friend suggested a couple of years ago during my endless bitching and moaning about the buckeyes that I should have a “buckeye-making” party. I had trouble getting past the oxymoron of “buckeye-making” and “party.” It reminded me of the time I was invited to a “tree trimming party.” I went to this party, and while it was pleasant enough, I couldn’t help thinking what a brilliant con it was. The whole time I kept throwing out other party ideas. But my plans for a “weed my garden party” and a “do my taxes party” weren’t enthusiastically received. Unfortunately, the timing for a buckeye party this year didn’t work out. But if the buckeye making still sucks after my proposed changes this year, I’m totally having a buckeye-making party next year. The guests will make the buckeyes, I’ll supervise. Or I might just go to the basement and play Rock Band.

No Time This Time

Several time management books I’ve consulted recommend comparing estimates of how long tasks will take with actual times. Last night I estimated how long I thought each task on my list for today would take and then prioritized them and ensured that the work-related tasks didn’t total more than eight hours. Then today at work I timed how long I spent on my tasks. I brought in a timer that counts down as well as up and that I could wear around my neck so that I could look like a moron if anyone saw me (actually so that I wouldn’t forget about my experiment during the day). I was pretty pleased with the experiment, and think I’ll keep doing it for a while, until I have a better sense of how long my usual tasks take to complete.  However, I think the clock app on my iPod Touch will sound less like I’m cooking Thanksgiving dinner in my office than the timer I used today, so I’ll try that tomorrow.

My key goal for today was to limit e-mail management time to 30 minutes, which was completely ridiculous given that I’d just had a 4-day weekend. I planned on checking e-mail three times and spending 10 minutes on it each time. Yeah, not so much. The check I did first thing this morning ended up taking 2 hours.  In total, I spent almost 3 hours dealing with e-mail. Also, I checked e-mail more than the three times I had planned to, but on the plus side, I didn’t obsessively check it all day long like I usually do.

Although the actual amounts of time I spent on each task didn’t equal my estimates, some of my estimates weren’t too far off and getting better at estimating is the point of this exercise. Part of this exercise seems worth continuing indefinitely — adding my time estimate to each task on my to do list. Today I added my time estimates right to the front of each task and seeing that (accurate or not) helped me immensely in prioritizing tasks for today and the rest of the week.

So now all I need to figure out is where the hell those two hours I can’t account for went today…