Saturday, June 28, 2014

How To Win Friends & Influence People In The Digital Age

Earlier this week I ordered this book online and I just finished reading it. It was such a great book, I just had to sing my praises!

How To Win Friends & Influence People In The Digital Age is adapted from one of the best selling self-help books of all time written by Dale Carnegie. Published in 1936, it has sold 15 million copies worldwide!

I opted to buy the updated version which covers the aspects of using social media to your advantage or detriment. I've never read the original, but according to many reviews I read online before purchasing, the core information from decades ago is timeless and this book just uses a modern perspective with some updated examples and references.

Bob asked me why I would want to read this book. I first learned of it while watching Big Brother 14. Wil Heuser and Janelle Pierzina were talking about it during Big Brother After Dark. I had actually forgotten about it until this week, (Big Brother 16 woot woot!) but I found it online while I was researching some other books on Amazon. After reading about it and many reviews, I thought maybe it might help me with my canvassing. That and I recently read an article that said the difference between poor people and rich people is that poor people read fiction for fun and rich people read non-fiction for self-improvement.

Initial thoughts: Everyone can benefit from reading this book. It is slightly geared toward someone who is working in a management position toward the end, but really anyone, employed or not, can benefit from the majority of this book. It's really insightful, and shows you how changes in the way you speak to others, how you react to others, and even changes in the way you think about others, will have a lasting impact over time, make you a more likeable person, and make you a more successful person. You'll be able to form connections faster and more easily.

There were so many great quotes in this book. Here's one of my favourite ones that really resonated with me:
"Many are accustomed to to holding a sword called the First Amendment in one hand and a shield called the Fifth in the other."
He's talking about how prevalent criticism and judgement have become online. With so many digital soapboxes, people feel like they can say whatever they want, when they want, especially when they think they are in the right, and then refuse to open their mouth when it is they who are wrong. Acting in this manner will most definitely stunt your success and it could even lead to your downfall.

What it really boils down to, if you want to have better relationships with others and become a more respected, trusted person, you need to be positive more often than not, take a genuine interest in others, be transparent, forgiving, patient, empathetic, and encouraging. That's the essence of this book. It sounds a little bit hokey and simplistic when I lay it out like that, however those are the main points I took away from the book. The examples and anecdotes included really flesh things out obviously and can help alter your current perspective on things.

And something that really drove home these points was as I was reading this book I could visualize certain people, famous or ordinary or in my life, who seem to naturally have some of these qualities and characteristics. They're popular, they're charismatic, they're leaders.
"The two highest levels of influence are achieved when 1) People follow you because of what you have done for them, and 2) People follow you because of who you are."
I believe that.

You should read this book and tell me what you think about it!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Chocolate Chip Bacon Fat Cookies

Ever since I started cooking all the food to freeze, I've been sort of on a roll cooking different comfort foods. I bought rice flour pasta and made macaroni and cheese with jalapenos in my homemade cheese sauce. And then I made a homemade bolognese sauce for rice flour spaghetti. Finally I invented a cookie recipe. Chocolate chip bacon fat cookies! Sounds disgusting, but it's not!

During my freezer cooking thing, I saved all my bacon drippings. I had at least a solid cup of bacon fat leftover. I enjoy cooking with bacon fat for certain foods, eggs and hashbrowns, toasting nuts in it, adding it to vegetables ect, but I don't use much of it at a time and I don't use it nearly as often as other fats and oils because the flavour is strong by comparison.

I started doing some research on what I could do with all this fat and I came across a traditional cookie recipe that I thought I might be able to convert to grain free. I've done a lot of experimenting with grain free baking in the last year, which included a lot of failed recipes thrown in the trash, so I wasn't sure if my made up recipe was going to work, but it actually did!. If you want to check out the original recipe, visit Something Swanky. It's quite different from mine, but that's where the inspiration came from.

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup cold bacon fat
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup pitted prunes
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups paleo flour (4 parts coconut flour, 4 parts almond flour, 1 part tapioca flour and 1 part arrowroot flour)
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips
In a food processor, I mixed the first 5 ingredients together, then added the baking soda once the batter was smooth and kept it running till it mixed in. The batter did not smell sweet like cookie dough usually does, it smelled like warm bacon fat and I was worried it would taste too salty and briefly contemplated adding agave or something else to sweeten it, but I carried on. I dumped my batter into a bowl and added the paleo flour and then folded in the chocolate chips. I ended up mixing it by hand because it was easier.

On a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper I shaped a tablespoon of dough into a ball and flattened it a bit. Once the tray was full, I put it in the freezer to chill while I worked on the next tray. I didn't want my cookies to freeze, but once it had chilled for 10-15 minutes and the fat was cold, I popped it in the oven for 9 minutes at 375 degrees F. This recipe yeilded 2 dozen small cookies. Don't try to make a dozen large cookies, they won't turn out. Trust, me I've learned the hard way with past recipes lol.

I was so nervous while they were baking, but when I opened the oven and pulled out these delicious smelling cookies I knew everything was right in the world. Straight from the oven, the chocolate was gooey and the cookie was smokey and soft. In fact, it was chewier than I expected. I thought it would be more crumbly and cake like since grain free baking has that effect, but it was just as a cookie should be. Must be all that fat!

I left them on the cooling racks over night and in the morning put them in a ziplock bag and put them in the fridge. After lunch I grabbed a cold cookie, wondering if they would taste different, but they were still fantastic! They were so smooth and velvety, like it melted in my mouth. I think I like them better cold than I did warm!

I'm so excited to go to Costco and buy more bulk bacon so I can fry it all up and make these cookies again! Oh, and eat more bacon of course.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Adventures in Freezer Cooking

For those who don't know, Bob and I have bought my mom's old house and are officially living in it as of yesterday, (though we started moving in a couple weeks ago.) We've already done some upgrades and made some major purchases.

It's going to be very tight for the rest of the year. I plan to stop working near the end of September. The baby will be born at the end of October and then there's Christmas. Plus, Bob's car needs major repairs, but it will cost more than the car is worth so we plan on buying a vehicle this month. We're going to be broke!

Which leads me to my point: Freezer cooking. In an effort to save time and money, I decided to give freezer cooking another try. It was something I did a couple times in the past, but wasn't entirely satisfied with the results. This time I did my research. I found a website called Once a Month Meals. It's fantastic!

There's hundred of recipes all for different lifestyles, including Paleo, Whole 30, and Gluten/Dairy Free. There's a menu builder, where you pick out 15 different recipes and a shopping list is generated for you, plus a prep list of things to do before your big cook day, full cooking instructions, labels you can print off for when it's time to freeze, and thawing instructions! You have to be a member and that costs $16 a month for the Pro Membership. It's totally worth the money guys!

The whole process is supposed to take 3-4 days. You go shopping one day and spend anywhere from $300-$600 worth of groceries. The groceries you have to buy will depend on the recipes you've chosen and what you have available in your house already. I definitely spent on the high end cooking all primal and paleo meals, plus my new kitchen was void of food due to the move. A lot of the shelf stable items will carry forward into the next month's mass cooking spree making my next big grocery shop cheaper than this one.

The second day, you prep the food. Chop up veggies, steam veggies, make rice and pasta, brown your meat and chop it ect.

The third day is when you put it all together. You're expected to spend 8-12 hours cooking depending on the recipes you've chosen and how many dishes you have to wash in between.

For me, this process has already taken 7 days and I'm still not done. I couldn't prep in a day. I didn't have enough room in my fridge for everything. I definitely bit off more than I could chew trying to cook 15 different double batches of meals. I completed about 8 recipes and then I said fuck it I can't cook any more!

Tesla's in my way all the time, my ankles would swell slightly from being on my feet for hours, my portable dishwasher takes up the entire kitchen so I can't do much while dishes are washing except try and rest. Bob refused to help me for longer than an hour. I still have my canvassing job to go to. It was too much! I froze what I prepped so it wouldn't spoil, but I still have more vegetables to prep including sweet potatoes, onions, bell peppers, and carrots.

On the plus side, I learned a lot about freezer cooking and what to do next time. There will definitely be a next time! I want to get good at this so that in September and October I can fill my freezer with food and then when the baby's born, I won't have to cook for a couple months and can use that time I would have spent cooking on doing other things.

We've been spending a lot of money on eating out the last few weeks and it seems like there's never anything ready to eat at home. My goal with freezer cooking is to save money by going grocery shopping less often, buying in bulk, and wasting less fresh food. I even got a costco membership!

As it stands now, all we have to buy for the month of June is dairy, fresh fruit, and salad stuff.

I hope I can one day feed my family for less than $10 a day, because right now it's costing me double that. But this is just month one. As I stock up my pantry with more items and get better at freezing meals, I'll actually be able to fully utilize the deals I find in stores on fresh produce and meat. That's something I never did before, a lot got wasted, so I'm excited about it!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Effing Cat Food

Emilio's weight loss journey is the most obnoxious thing ever! After spending $50 on all this specially-formulated-for-weight-loss canned food, Emilio doesn't want to eat it. Introducing a new cat food can be tricky and time consuming. You have to do it just right, mixing the old stuff with the new, but Emilio's always preferred kibble to wet food.

After him refusing to eat even his old wet food for a week, I bought the specially-formulated-for-weight-loss kibble from the vet. He seems to enjoy it a lot more then the wet food, but he still pines for his old stuff.

Not knowing what to do with all this canned food, I decided to give it to Crush since he is just as fat as Emilio. He likes it more than Emilio does, but still prefers his original kibble. I tried giving him some of the diet kibble, but he doesn't want to eat it either.

The only one who does want to eat this diet wet food is Dale and he doesn't need it! He is still being served the old fatty-fat-cat kibble, but he doesn't want it. It's so frustrating. Nobody wants the food they're being served and each one thinks the other cats have a better deal. I can't win!

I have to segregate all the cats into different rooms to eat and shut the door for an hour hoping they'll eat what they've been given. If I don't, they try to eat each others food. In the past I've witnessed the fat cats bully Dale into giving up his food bowl to them. When they don't eat enough, they're whining an hour later to be fed, but it's so much work splitting them up and getting all their food sorted out, I usually just force them to wait until the next meal time so they'll be hungry enough to eat more. I can't leave food out to let them graze like they're used to since they're all on different diets and you can't leave wet food out for hours on end anyway.

None of the cats will eat leftover wet cat food either. They want it fresh out of the can and refuse to touch cold cat food or microwaved cat food. I am so sick of these prima donna cats! I know it's going to take a while to get them used to timed-feedings and it's better for their health overall, but it's still exhausting. If you hear of any vets offering gastric by-pass surgery for cats, let me know.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Emilio's Weight Loss Journey

My eldest cat, Emilio, is 6 years old and sadly, obese. He's gained 6 pounds in the last 2 years alone. That's an astronomical number for a cat. He's in terrible shape. He's on the fast track for developing diabetes or arthritis.

The average cat weighs 8-10 pounds. Dale, my fittest cat, weighs 11 pounds, so he's doing quite well. He has a healthy silhouette, is active, and no health problems. Crush on the other hand weighs 20 pounds, which would be considered obese, though he's never had any health problems to date. Those extra 10 pounds on him is a big deal though. Apparently it's like 140 extra pounds on a should-be 140 pound woman.

But Emilio comes in at 23 pounds. My daughter only weighs 3.5 pounds more than him. Emilio's weight is the equivalent of a 322 pound women who should weigh 140 pounds. You can imagine what that looks like on a person. He has a lot of weight to lose!

It's affecting his health. He can't jump over the baby-gate in the hallway because he's too big. We had to buy a wider litter box for him to do his business because he didn't have enough room. He's had trouble wit his intestines and bowels on multiple occasions. I bought the largest cat harness and leash at the pet store to take him outside for walks and he was too fat to fit in it. I'm going to have to get a small dog harness.

He's on some fancy diet food now. I purchased 24 cans for $50 and he gets a can a day. The vet had been pressuring me for a couple years now to put Emilio on his prescription diet food, but I always turned it down, trying cheaper alternatives. My way obviously isn't working and Emilio needs an intervention. I want him to live long enough for Tesla to be able to pronounce his name properly. (She currently call him Crush or Dill-ee-yole-yo.)

Crush should really be on this diet as well, but I can't afford to spend over $100 a month on cat food alone. Like, my family needs to eat too! Emilio's the fattest and the sickest, so we'll start with him and see how it goes over the next year. For Crush, I'm going to focus on the exercise and getting him outside to play while more closely monitoring his food intake and limiting when food is available to be eaten.

Hopefully this helps. Expect before and after pictures.