There Goes The Neighborhood

You might think that since I’m home most of the day I’ve gotten to know all of my neighbors and I’m baking them cookies every afternoon and having coffee with the housewife down the street and waving at little Susie every morning as she walks to school.

As much as I wish that were true, it’s not. Oh, I’m pleasant and I say hello to the neighbors, I even have a chat with the couple next door with some frequency, but for the most part I keep to myself. I keep to myself, but that’s not to say I don’t see what goes on.

Yes, I guess I’m a bit of a voyeur. I fancy myself a younger, more female Jimmy Stewart. But my Hitchcockian world doesn’t involve murder like Rear Window. I’m a bit more focused on whether or not Bob’s brother is going to sell his house now that he’s put Bob in a home (apparently he’s very happy there) and exactly how many single girls live in the duplex across the street (it seems dozens of them come and go daily) and why the people down the road never ever walk their dogs even though they could CLEARLY use the exercise.

To put it simply, I’m nosy. And though I don’t spend much time actually talking with any of our neighbors, I like to know what’s going on with them. I think it makes me feel safe. Secure in the knowledge that mostly they’re just regular people and they have their routines just like the rest of us.

I like knowing the rhythm of the neighborhood. The elementary school kids are usually walking to school right around 8:45. And the mailman hits my block around 11:30. The silver car across the street is washed, right down to the hubcaps, every Saturday morning. The woman at the end of the block smokes cigarettes and waters her plants in her bathrobe at pretty much all hours. The cupcake store is closed on Tuesdays. 🙁

It’s a nice little neighborhood, and I’m glad I get to be a part of it. That crazy blonde lady who walks her dog ten times a day and is always peeking in everyone’s windows.

Fall TV Yipee

So, not sure if you noticed, but over the summer, TV has been ALL reruns. I’m not a total TV junkie or anything, but I’m not going to lie, I am really looking forward to some refreshing new mind-numbing entertainment. Even daytime TV is ALL NEW! although I try to avoid watching that whenever possible. Except Oprah sometimes. And Ellen. And sometimes the View. Oh and daytime Food Network. But that is it! I swear.

This year I think I’m doubly excited because last fall we were in Singapore, meaning reruns of the Ghost Whisperer were about the closest I got to must-see TV. That’s not true actually, but most of the shows were old seasons of American TV, and even then it was only what was deemed fit by the censors that made it through. The Amazing Race was broadcast via satellite, so John and I looked forward to that every week, but aside from that my TV watching was pretty limited. I was a little obsessed with Gossip Girl, so I watched bits and pieces of that on YouTube. (aside – Did you know that you can’t access shows on network Web sites if you aren’t in the US? I almost broke down in tears the day I tried to watch the season finale of The Bachelor and found I couldn’t).

Anyway since we’ve been back in the States I’ve watched tons of reruns and the like, but now that fall is in the air and the season premiers are mere days away, I find myself getting excited.

But here’s the problem: John has decided he only wants to watch three hours of TV a week. I think this is totally commendable and I’m thrilled he’s choosing to use his time more effectively, but I will not be participating in this little experiment.

Oh no. I have shows I want to watch. And by “watch” I mean “tune in regularly.” We’re currently watching True Blood and Entourage on HBO as well as Top Chef and maybe Project Runway. Those seasons will end soon though. Fall shows I will definitely (unless they become totally unbearable, at which point I reserve the right to veto) watch include:

House, The Biggest Loser, 30 Rock, The Office, Gossip Girl, Grey’s Anatomy. That’s not so bad right? Only about five hours all told.

BUT then comes the shows I may be interested and would like to check out:

Glee, Community, Private Practice, Dancing with the Stars, So You Think You Can Dance, Modern Family, CougarTown, Melrose Place (I know, stop it) and all the random CSI’s and Law and Orders just because I like cop shows.

Holy crap that is a lot of TV. Most of this will go on the DVR, but I’m sure quite a few of these shows will be watched in real time. I will pare down and figure out what I like and what makes me laugh/keeps me riveted but for now, I’m just pumped. I can already feel my eyes rolling back in my head. Oh dear.

Scheduling Motivation

My sister told me the other day that I’ve “gotten too used to being able to do whatever [I] want all the time.”

At first I thought, well isn’t that entire point of life? Just to be able to do whatever you want? That sounds awesome! So does that mean that I’m awesome? Why yes, I guess it does!

But in reality, it’s not like I can do WHATEVER I want. There’s not jetting off to France for a week of wine drinking in the world’s best vineyards. Sigh.

But it is awesome in the sense that I can create my own schedule. I CHOOSE when to do things. Anything I want (within reason of course). Whenever I want.

That doesn’t mean I’m free from all responsibility. It doesn’t mean I still don’t have to do things I don’t want to. But I do have more flexibility in choosing when to do those things.

Sometimes though, I think that flexibility can lead to stagnation. It’s hard to get motivated to do the laundry, or water the lawn, when there is always time to do it later. I could start that load of whites now, or I could start it later. I could turn on the sprinkler now, or I could do it later.

That’s why I find that even though I have what might appear to be oodles of free time, for those of us that are unemployed, it still helps to be on some sort of a schedule. It doesn’t necessarily have to be anything rigid, but having a schedule will help give a sense of structure to your day, and it will help you feel a sense of accomplishment.

You might want to use a calendar to help you organize your schedule. A day timer is nice, or you can be all crazy awesome at technology like I am and use Google Calendar.

The first step is to establish a good sleeping pattern. I realize that it may be tempting to sleep in until all hours of the day and then stay up late (just because you can!) but you are a grown up, and it’s time to get on a good, normal sleeping pattern. Try to get at least 8 hours a night, because that’s going to help you be your best, and you want to be your best don’t you? For me, I find that 9 hours is optimal, and I usually sleep from about 11 or 11:30 until 8 a.m. or so. You might find you operate better sleeping from 12 to 9, or 10 to 6, or even 1 to 10. Just find what works best for you.

After you’ve established your normal sleeping pattern, try to find the periods of the day in which you are the most productive. This is no different for those of you that are employed, so perk those ears up if you’ve been nodding off during most of this post (maybe time to evaluate your sleeping habits, no?).  I find that I am most productive during my first hours of waking, so I try to schedule chores, errands, job-searching, and any other activity that requires a higher level of motivation (read: things I don’t really want to do but have to) during my morning hours, leaving the afternoon for more leisurely activities such as reading, writing, etc.

Now that you have a basic routine to your day down, it’s time to look at the bigger picture. For me, a large job search Web site that I follow here in Denver comes out every Monday, so I dedicate a good chunk of Monday to researching companies, drafting cover letters, and sending out resumes. When it comes to the more mundane tasks of daily life, I try to schedule them into my calendar so they don’t get put off and build up.

Sheets need to be washed once a week no? So let’s add that to the calendar, how about every Thursday? Floors should be vacuumed at least every two weeks, how about on Friday mornings? If it’s housework your focused on, take a look at, she’s got a very helpful calendar for almost any type of housework you can think of.

After I’ve scheduled necessary tasks into my week, I find time for the things I WANT to do. For me, this includes writing, which I’m trying to do on a regular basis. However, I find that if I don’t make time for my writing and actually insert it into my schedule, the stuff of daily life can often come up and trump that time I thought I might spend on it. You might not think you need to block off two hours on your calendar to do things you WANT to do, but trust me, if you don’t, something else will come up . So schedule the time to go to the gym, to work on that craft project, or even just to take that bath. Calgon anyone?Because even though you can do “whatever you want, whenever you want,” sometimes life just gets in the way.

So does unemployment mean footloose and fancy free? Sometimes, yes. But working off a calendar can help you stay motivated and productive, and the sense of accomplishment you’ll feel after crossing those items off of your to-do list will reduce any guilt you might feel when it comes time to just veg out in front of the TV for a little while.

Butterscotch Bars

Part of being a shut-in means I get to do all those things you working folks wish you could do. Like try out new recipes or new and exciting ways to destroy my kitchen. Now I’m not a terrible cook, but I’m not amazing either. I’m kind your run-of-the-mill, everyday chick just trying to make sure we don’t live on Chipotle (not that there’s anything wrong with that.) I mostly cook basic, easy dinners, and I try to stick to the healthier options, but hey, once in a while you need dessert. What can I say. You won’t find me making any fancy wedding cakes or anything though. I’ll leave that to my friend Martha.

Anyway, now it’s time for a little segment I like to call, cooking with Jeni, or Housewife-y Cooking 2.0. In today’s segment I’ll be making these Butterscotch Bars from

Why did I choose them? I dunno, they got four stars on the site, and I was bored. Typical housewife pores through her recipe books to find Grandma’s prized recipe. I on the other hand, just google that shit until I find something good.

Usually I choose a recipe based on the ingredients. Do I have them? Yes, okay then I’ll give it a shot. No? Screw it.

On this day though, I decided to branch out, even though I did NOT have all the ingredients I needed. Which meant a bike ride to the grocery store. Does anyone really keep condensed milk anymore? I don’t.

Once home I assembled all of the ingredients for easy access:


Let’s see, starting in the back we have whole wheat flour (I ended up using all whole wheat instead of white, which may have caused a problem, but more on that later), regular flour, salt, baking soda, oats, and the butterscotch chips, and then in the front is the vanilla, walnuts, brown sugar, one egg, butter, and of course our condensed milk.

Next up, bring the laptop in the kitchen for easy access to the recipe. No cute little cards for me. Although I do have those and I’m not against them.

The first step was to mix the butter, sugar, vanilla and egg together. It turned out like this:


Then, we combine all of the dry ingredients: oats, flour, salt, baking soda


Looks like a nice little bowl of oatmeal doesn’t it?

Next up, mix the two together. Not so hard so far right? I should be on Top Chef.


As you can see, it turned out to be this dry, crumbly sort of mix. I thought that was fine because that’s what the recipe called for, but I think the use of the whole wheat flour made it a little dryer than it would have been otherwise. Next time, I would definitely use more butter. As Paula Dean says, “WE NEED MORE BUTTER!”

The next step is to press most of the mixture into the bottom of a well-greased 9×13 pan, as it will form the base of the bars. After that, we’ll add the butterscotch goo, which is a mix of the butterscotch chips and the condensed milk. Oh and the chopped walnuts, which I of course forgot to toast. Oh well it was too late at this point and we were going for broke.

butterscotch goo

Now that looks appetizing doesn’t it?

After the layer of butterscotch goo goes into the pan, it’s time to add the rest of the oat mixture, “gently” pressing it down into place. It looks like this before it goes in the oven:


Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, and it looks pretty much exactly the same coming out:


Sorry I didn’t plate them or anything. I guess that would have looked a little nicer. Maybe next time.

These turned out – okay – I guess. Not great. I’d give them 3 out of 5 stars, but that may very well be my fault since I used all whole wheat flour. According to the recipe, this pan makes 36 servings at 138 calories per bar. Well that is one tiny bar, so I’d say our servings have been more like 300 calories per bar. That said, they are relatively healthy due to the oats and of course the minimal amount of butter and sugar used.


John likes them, and I guess that’s all that matters because he’s the one who has to eat them. Or gets to eat them I should say.

I think the main reason I don’t like them all that much is because they don’t have any chocolate. And what’s a dessert without chocolate?

If you do decide to try these out, make sure you click on the link above and follow the actual CookingLight recipe and not mine. They have a lot of additional instructions (like pre-heat the oven) that you’ll want to be sure and take note of.

Until next time…