Morning wins and losses

So, I am not recently very good at mornings. This is bad, because I get up at 5:15 and am in the car by 5:45 if my morning is going correctly.

This morning, I got up a few minutes early – very sleepy, but resigned to get my act together. I remembered to take my meds and my vitamins. I remembered to wear socks that match. I remembered to put on my minimal makeup. (I am trying to remember to wear at least BB cream, eyeliner, mascara, and blush – not so much out of societal pressure but because I like how it looks. My work is 100% okay with women not wearing makeup.) I have on a cute scarf and cute hair sticks that match my peach cardigan. I remembered all the parts of my lunch.

Got to work a few minutes early, got my (tiny) coffee. Things are going pretty good, right?

Then I realize I am here with zero jewelry on at all.

Derp.

I guess if that’s the worst thing that happens today, I’m doing pretty good, but I’m still annoyed. I was doing so well!

Lunch Recipe Formula

One of the fun parts about being gluten intolerant is that restaurants become a game of roulette. Even restaurants with “gluten free menu items” frequently screw that up, and I’ve gotten croutons on my gluten free salad before (after a specific request for no croutons). Salad dressings are a gamble – even vinaigrettes, if they’re from a bottle instead of made on site, since they often use thickeners.

The result: I don’t eat out much for lunch.

This means I need to bring my lunch every day. (I got a snazzy new grown-up looking lunchbox when I got my new job, specifically to be large enough to bring leftovers). The gluten free thing also means no sandwiches, and I’m very careful about bringing salads, because I am a giant clutz and always end up having to get oily salad dressing stains out of my shirts.

Alongside trying to eat small meals every few hours (which helps a lot with mood stability), this can be a little tedious, especially if it means cooking big meals every night so I have leftovers. While it’s pretty easy to have leftover chili, it’s harder with other things (like grilled vegetables, which SSH and I tend to just devour with abandon).

My solution recently has been to make a sort of casserole on Sunday with the express idea of eating it for lunch all week. While any casserole will do, one that doesn’t take much work is ideal. A baked (GF) pasta casserole does well and reheats well, as does my current favorite – roasted veggies and chicken.

Roasted Veggie Casserole

You need:

  • about 2lbs of meat, cut into 1” chunks (I usually use chicken breast or pork tenderloin, for a vegetarian version, try canned/cooked chickpeas)
  • Vegetables, cut up into roughly the same sized chunks – I’ve used red potatoes, sweet potato, carrot, beets, bell pepper, onion, zucchini, yellow squash, broccoli, garlic, asparagus, brussels sprouts; basically any veggie you can roast (tomatoes don’t do so well)
  • olive oil
  • white wine or chicken broth
  • spices and salt and pepper

This is basically a recipe shell. I don’t list any spices because you can really go nuts. I’ve made this Scarborough style (parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme), southwest style (chili powder, cumin, oregano), Italian style (Italian spices, garlic powder, crushed red pepper), grilled style (grill seasonings of various blends).

Spray a 9×13 baking dish with no-stick spray. In a big bowl, dump all the meat and veggies, plus a few tablespoons of olive oil and a few sloshes of white wine. Add the spices and mix well. (Do not under-salt this.)

Dump the resulting mixture into the prepared pan, distribute evenly, and cover with foil. Bake at 400F, covered, for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake another 20 minutes, until you start to see some browned edges.

I usually leave this on the counter to cool until it’s lukewarm and then divvy it up into 5 small glass containers (like these little ones) and pop them in the fridge.  (Sometimes if I really fill the baking dish, there’s enough for a weeknight meal too) With a piece of fruit, you’ve got an excellent lunch that only takes a few minutes to get hot in the microwave and is remarkably good for you, with the added benefit that it is very neutral in smell (just the spices), so your coworkers won’t hate you for making the place smell like stale curried fish.

And it’s super tasty too!

This week’s version has chicken, new potatoes, zucchini, onion, bell pepper, and carrots, with Mrs. Dash “Garlic and Herb” plus a good bit of salt and pepper. Next week I’m thinking I’ll try an Italian version, maybe with pesto, garlic and tomatoes.

Hidden Perks

A quick google search on tips for commuters turned up a really interesting Lifehacker post, that claims the average US commute is 50 minutes. Having never commuted more than 30 minutes in my life (unless you count the “commute” from Waco to Houston and back each weekend), it’s been hard to get used to “losing” so much time during my day.

I’ve done a number of things to try to make my daily commutes into something less… well, hated. It’s been hard for me to get used to being a captive audience for two or two and a half hours every day. Fortunately I’m a relatively low stress driver – traffic doesn’t really freak me out, I don’t compulsively change lanes, and road rage just isn’t my thing.

(Though I’m not above making the occasional sarcastic remark…)

While I won’t call “adjusting my commute” a hidden perk, it’s nice to know that my work supports my working 6:30am to 4pm instead of forcing me to try to keep an 8-5. Being creative about my route helped too – while all the traffic map generators are going to tell me to stick to the highway, it’s no further mileage wise and a lot less traffic to take a state highway/smaller road (even hitting all the stoplights). Instead of the volatility of a highly congested, merge-heavy stretch of 5+ lane highway insanity, I’m on a road that’s 2 lanes each way, with very few people driving on it.

Audio books have also been a big winner. I’ve really enjoyed some of the books I picked up (mostly with the last few purchases on my employee discount at the bookstore… *shifty eyes*).

The Harry Potter books, narrated by Jim Dale, are delightful, as are any of the Hercule Poirot books narrated by David Suchet – my favorite of those was the short stories though. I also really enjoyed Stacy Schiff’s biography of Cleopatra. Sarah Vowell’s The Wordy Shipmates is funny and historical, but hasn’t kept my attention as rapt as some of the other books I’ve listened to. (When you go through 10+ CD’s a week, you can get through a lot of audio)

The biggest unseen winner, though, is my Jawbone. I’ve not used a bluetooth headset before, and SSH convinced me that this would be a good purchase. He was unbelievably right. For more reasons than just the sound quality.

One of the things I’ve been missing with my new job is the community I was used to having in my free time. I’m not super keen on spending a lot of time in front of the computer when I get home, and my attention span is pretty short when I’m tired, so I’ve not been much into gaming. In fact, beyond twitter and email on my phone, these few blog posts have been more computing than I’ve done in awhile. Which means… I’m feeling kinda lonely.

Enter the Jawbone. Now, since I’m a captive audience for 60+ minutes every day, I can use those 60+ minutes to do something a lot of people don’t seem to do too very often anymore.

Call and talk to people.

It’s been awhile since I’ve gotten to hang out on the phone for an hour with my best friends, but it goes a long way toward alleviating the lonelies. Really catching up with people is pretty nice too. And I don’t feel like it’s “taking away” what little free time I have, since I’d be sitting in the car anyway.

I suppose, over all, none of this is particularly groundbreaking, but I want to start this whole venture into the commuting world on the right foot, so to speak (the right tire?). It’s tiring enough to do the drive, without having all the other emotional baggage on top of it. I know eventually it’ll be routine, just part of my day, but I want that to be something I can use, and not something I just have to tolerate. I doubt it will ever be “ideal”, but at least it can be bearable, right?

C is for…

There is something extremely rewarding when, after spending all morning being sad you can’t eat the bagels someone got for a meeting, or the tray of cookies leftover from a lunch conference, you suddenly realize that you brought your own cookie.

A gluten free cookie.

Because its a cookie kind of day.