Fall coffee

Fall leaves coffee

Creature of habit

So what tricks do you use to jump start your day? Or smooth your transition to evening? Spending a week recently with Stephanie and Matt, watching little Riley, and recalling the years of juggling children with life’s demands, I thought about how my routines have changed. Not sure how I can feel as busy as ever, but that’s life.

So here are my top 10 tips for getting out the door and having a productive day:

  1. Get up early! I try to get up by 5:00. When I build extra time into my morning, it doesn’t throw me off to have a second cup of coffee or to check my email. I don’t have to have the extra time to dress if I’m in a rush. But my days are much smoother if I have some quiet time up front. Worth the loss of an extra half hour’s sleep!
  2. Have a plan before I walk out the door. If I have things to drop off (dry cleaning, etc.,) I leave it at the front door, or put it in my car the night before. I list what I need to do so I don’t have to rely on memory, especially if my to dos include appointments.
  3. Take lunch. I usually see this one referenced as a strategy for saving money. You know, the encouragement to save the lunch money that adds up over a month’s time. But that’s not my incentive for eating in. Mine is two-fold. We have a huge parking problem at work, so by staying put, I don’t have that issue to deal with in the afternoon. And more importantly, I use the lunch break at my desk to check my email, make a quick call, or balance my check book. Just taking a few minutes to deal with some personal chores during the day frees evening time later.
  4. Keep lists, whether digital or on paper. Keep phone lists, grocery lists, errand lists, gift lists. It is always surprising to me how long it can take to get around to making a simple call or two if I don’t write it down as a to do. And I have to have reminders for grocery needs, birthday gifts, etc. When I see it, I do it.
  5. Leave a breadcrumb trail at work for the next day, especially when you’re out for the weekend, or for a longer period of time. I can’t tell you how often this has saved me. I keep a running to do list of work projects, deadlines, and chores, on my computer, just as I do for my personal life. I still sometimes forget something or get behind, but I have very few dropped balls using this low tech system. Other low tech ideas: I leave notes to myself on my chair at work. If I have to move something to sit down, I know I’ll see it in the morning. Or I put a note, print outs for a meeting, etc. on my keyboard. And if I need to take something home with me at the end of the day, I put it in my path out the door. Again, the concept is: if I have to step over it to go home, I know I’ll see it. 
  6. Streamline errands. I try to limit my grocery run to once a week. This cuts down on impulse spending and keeps that chore to a minimum. I actually like going to the grocery store. But I don’t need to do it every day. I especially try to limit errands after work, and I particularly limit my errands in the winter months. When it’s cold and dreary, I just want to go home. Batching errands on Saturday instead of spreading them through the week is better time management for me.
  7. If I don’t have a social commitment in the evening, I come in and do two things right away. I take off my makeup, and I get coffee ready to brew for the next morning. I love having most of my evening routine done long before bed time. And I love having hot coffee in the morning with no additional effort.
  8. ALWAYS do dinner dishes as soon as dinner is done. This is a rule I keep almost religiously. If I allow myself to get sidetracked, I find myself doing dishes at 10:00 o’clock at night, or whatever time we finish the movie, or game, etc., and I HATE that. I also hate seeing last night’s dishes when I get up in the morning. Best solution: as the old catch phrase goes, “just do it!” And then, (I realize this my not be possible with kids in the house) close the kitchen for business, except for beverages. Helps with late night snack cravings, and there’s no second round of dishes to do later.
  9. Go to bed at a reasonable hour. This should be an easy one, but apparently for most Americans, it is quite the challenge. So I challenge you: choose your bed time, rather than staying up until you fall over. Take control of yourself, and definitely, if you have young children, take control of them. The best gift a parent can give to themselves (IMHO) is some quiet evening time after kids are in bed. (Good for the kids to have structure too.)
  10. And finally, this is all easy stuff…but the key to making it work is to make it a routine. If you don’t have to think about managing your time, if you automatically write things down as you think of them, or follow a regular pattern for the beginning and end or your day, you’ll find that the small tasks that underpin your day become ingrained. And as your habits become routine, they begin to support you. You’ll find yourself more organized with less effort, and sometimes, you may be surprised that you can operate so automatically, you don’t even remember doing some of the things on your list. That’s ok…better to be able to do the mundane things of life with little to no thought. There are plenty of bigger things to put that brain power on!   

Oatmeal for breakfast; or, I have to lower my cholesterol

High cholesterol treatment

Was there really any doubt? About five years ago when I last had my cholesterol checked, my number was good…don’t remember the exact number, but it was good. And the most recent reading? A disappointing 251, in the “high” category, although the HDL (good cholesterol) number is excellent.  The cream-in-my-coffee habit has caught up with me. I’m expecting the lipid police at my door any moment.

So: resolutions begin. I’ll add oatmeal to my coffee habit. I can’t give up the cream so I’ll have to find ways to minimize the impact. I suppose I’ll have to increase my exercising too. Hey, I already drink red wine, so I’ve got that going for me. What else? I’m not a big meat eater, so I can’t help myself by giving up something I already don’t do. You followed that, right?

Why is it that I can manage my weight and stay in the same size clothes I’ve worn my whole adult life, and yet this one little test can threaten my love affair with dairy products? I wouldn’t say I’m addicted. But it would be a grim world, mornings at 5:oo am at my house, without the promise of hot coffee diluted with cream until it’s a beautiful khaki color. And don’t even get me started on butter. I don’t eat too much of it these days. I don’t bake a lot, and most of what I bake I give away. I don’t cook a lot in general. But if a recipe calls for butter, that’s what I use. I can’t do margarine or other plastic products passing themselves off as dairy. I’m in the camp of “I’d rather have a small amount of the real thing than a lot of imitation.”

Hmmm….Paula Deen, where are you? And I wonder what your cholesterol number is? I notice you don’t offer full disclosure on your Food Network programs. Think I’ll have to rewrite that old rhyme: “Butter, butter, everywhere, and not a bite to eat.”

Well, as it turns out, I like oatmeal, so that won’t be too difficult to add. I don’t eat it often, but I like it. And I especially like it with brown sugar, a pat of butter, and just a splash of cream. Uh oh….

See you at the gym!


Cup of coffee with whipped cream

My name is not Paula Deen. But though I don’t share her flamboyant style, I do appreciate her unembarrassed embrace of butter. I have a similar relationship with cream. Not milk, not half-and-half. Heavy whipping cream. I add it to my coffee every morning, and I’ve progressed from just liking it to needing it. In fact, if I can’t have the real thing, I prefer no coffee at all. No non-dairy creamers for me!

I used to be more inhibited. I used to buy cream for the special occasion recipes, the holiday, once-a-year treats, and guiltily finish off anything left in the carton in a once-a-year coffee splurge. The rest of the time I was much more restrained, and my coffee was just a morning habit. Half-and-half, or even milk, did the job of diluting the robust flavor.

I’m almost a vegetarian, and I have great cholesterol numbers. Maybe that’s why I’m comfortable with my food vice.  A few years ago, I began to buy cream a little more often. I think it was about the time I turned 40. Anyway, cream moved from a once or twice a year place on my grocery list to a weekly item. Now I am never without it, and my morning coffee is rich, satisfying, decadent. It’s not just a habit, it’s my morning comfort and reason for crawling out of the bed at 5:00 AM.

I often wonder who my fellow cream addicts are. I notice there is always a generous supply of cream in the dairy case, and as I only buy one carton a week, there must be others out there regularly supporting the cream component of the dairy world. Thank you, fellow cream lovers! I probably couldn’t carry the industry on my own, even though I’m delighted to do my part.

My husband is a steak lover, and when he drinks coffee, it is without embellishment: serious black coffee, like he learned to drink in medical school. He developed a coffee habit for the caffeine kick. I drink it for the flavor, and although I know it probably sounds sacrilegious to most people, I’ll trade steak for cream any day. If I’m going to have something that impacts my cholesterol, I’ll take it in a liquid form, thank you very much. At dinner, I’ll be the one with veggies on my plate. But I’ll make up for it at breakfast, when I indulge. And I’m over the guilt.


This morning I brought my “Mahalo mug” to work with me. I had filled it with coconut caramel coffee from the Kauai Coffee Company http://store.kauaicoffee.com/kauai-coffee-hawaiian-coconut-caramel-crunch-p19.aspx …delicious! This is the mug I got from the resort Rob and I visited in October in Kauai. You may have seen these deals on vacation: you buy a mug from your resort, and then get free refills on coffee, tea, sodas…it’s a gimmick, but not a bad one, and you can bring the mug home if you choose to. I’m not usually one to need souvenirs labeled with the place names of vacation spots…no spoons or knick-knacks for me with national park logos or island names. But who can’t use an extra coffee mug? So I threw it in my luggage when I packed.

Southeast Alaska is getting chilly. Although Ketchikan is on the coast and the temperatures here are nothing like the frozen north of Alaska, we have frost and the occasional snow during winter months. This morning I came out to my car and had to run the defroster for several minutes waiting for the windshields to clear. (My 80 year old house has a tiny one-car garage, designed for a model-T, not a modern day SUV.) So I park outside, and this morning the cold air had frosted everything.

I set the mug on my desk when I got to my office, and looking at the image of the resort pool, I was instantly far away in a warm and sunny place. We all know that music and fragrance can transport us to another time, another place. Who knew a plastic coffee mug could do the same? The little things in life…I’m reminded again and again of their importance. Even if they are plastic and sport a resort name. Sometimes it is less about the object, more about what it evokes. Hawaii is magic…can’t explain it, but it is. And even a cheap coffee mug can’t detract from its allure. In the end, whatever brings you to a happy memory, a good place, is also touched with a little of that magic. So even though I’m not one to be sentimental about coffee mugs, I think I’ll choose this one for a while. Winter is a good time to remember the sun on the sand, the warmth in the air, the exotic aroma of the Hawaiian frangipani, and a week with my favorite husband.