Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A different take on simplify

I'm making steady progress on my Christmas projects and still hope to have them done in time. One was particularly ambitious, more for its size than it's complexity, but I just always seem to get my best ideas at the 11th hour.

I actually wanted to write about a different subject entirely today. Recently, Trish at Notes of Sincerity started a series entitled Simple Life Saturday. If you remember my recent whine fest, you can appreciate that I was a little excited when she started this. And, honestly, was a tad disappointed to see that her intentions were for subjects like kindness and flexibility. Now, I'm not saying those subjects are not pertinent - they absolutely are - but it was just not the practical, how to juggle a million responsibilities at once type advice I was hoping for.

So, I decided to share my own tidbits in this area, and encourage you to join along. Aren't we all looking for ways to shave a couple minutes off each day's responsibilities? I'm not going to give this a name, or set up a certain day of the week for it, because then it might become a chore, but as I think of time-saving things I do, I'll write about them here and you can join in the comments, or e-mail me your tips & I'll write about them, giving you credit of course. Or you can write your own blog post & I'll just post a link. Whatever. No rules.

My first tip involves the crock pot.

Now, I've had many a person suggest the crock pot to me over the years as a time-saving device, but the problem with the crock pot is that it requires you to put stuff in it during the worst time of the day for me - the morning. Never once, in all my years of working in an office, did I remember or have the time to assemble a roast or beef stew or anything in my crock pot before going to work. Even the times I was determined to use it and did the assembling the night before - I'd forget to take it out of the fridge and plug it in. Just not a morning person.

Coincidentally, one thing I've always done in an effort to save time was make large batches of soups and stews, freezing the leftovers in family meal sized containers. While I loved having the leftovers, I still found the process of going from a giant brick of frozen soup to hot, edible soup a time consuming process. In my microwave, it usually amounted to 20-25 minutes of cooking, stopping to stir about every 5 minutes. Not my idea of a time saver.

When I mentioned this to a friend a couple of years ago, she said "oh, I never do that - I just pop it in the crockpot & re-heat it that way." Wow. A real "duh" moment if I've ever had one. Especially since, for the last 10 or so years, I've had these meal-sized freezer containers the exact size and shape as my crock pot.

So, that's my un-original tip for today. Have freezer containers that will fit in your crock pot so you can just pop the food out of the container like an ice cube & let your crock pot do the re-heating. This is particularly relevant to me now that I'm working from home, because I can even choose this option as late as 1pm and it still be ready for dinner. Nothing better than my own cooking, for free, that I don't even have to work for.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Quilts in Use V

My little girl is home from school today as her Thanksgiving holiday starts. She came out to snuggle with me on the couch pretty early this morning & ended up falling asleep there for another little while.

Despite appearances, this quilt is technically still a WIP. I made the decision to hand quilt it last year, when I was apparently under delusions about my actual free time for such things. The blocks are supposed to look like this:

with the quilting going in both directions. The quilt laid there on a dresser in my living room for about a year with me only getting around to a line or two every few weeks. At that rate, I would be able to use the quilt in 2015. I got sick of looking at it in its unfinished state and decided to go ahead & bind it. It's mostly done, but some of the blocks in 2 corners still look like this:

with the quilting only going in one direction. I *can* finish the hand quilting even though it's bound, but time will tell if that actually happens.

I ended up liking this quilt much better than I thought I would. The fabric was crazy cheap at Joann's and I basically just bought it for the price. Once I got it all together though, I love how bright & cheerful it is. It was my first attempt at a double hourglass, and I was blown away by how very well they came together. The entire quilt just has perfectly matched seams - it makes me look like some kind of expert quilter, when in fact, it's just an easy block to line up.

I'm off to rush through some work in the hopes of having some time to spend with this little girl this afternoon. Have a very happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Sometimes, we just have to let go

I hope you aren't wanting to see any pictures of quilting. We went to the zoo this weekend, and now I can't find my camera.

But, there isn't much to show anyway. Foolish me thought my schedule would improve once my daughter got in school. I wouldn't call 30 minutes in the drop-off line, 30 minutes in the pick up line, and 30-60 minutes of homework a night an improvement. (Only because she hates doing it & drags it out - we're working on that.)

What little there is to show can't be shown. Ho Ho Ho and all that.

My main purpose in writing today is to try to organize some thoughts I've had lately. And accept some things. You know those mothers that have it all together, the ones who can manage a full-time job, keep the house running smoothly, and take good care of their children? I'm not one of those. I'm the one chronically late, a tad messy, and with stuff - even important stuff - always slipping through the cracks. I will admit to being disorganized, but even more than that is that I just don't seem to have the stamina of some women. I need down time, regularly.

I would consider my job to be the biggest obstacle to me having down time. For the last 2 years, I've worked for a company with a weekly deadline. That weekly deadline means that every week of the year, I have to accomplish the same amount of work regardless of what else is going on. Whether I'm sick, whether my daughter is sick, whether I have car trouble and have to spend the day at the repair shop, whether it's Christmas - it doesn't matter. Their exact words last year "the magazine cannot suffer because it's Christmas." If I sound a bit whiny, I am a bit whiny. The upside to this job is that I can do it from home, and it's not quite 40 hours. I generally drop the little one off at school and work straight through, eating at my desk, until time to pick her up, and that's usually sufficient (plus Saturdays). And when something requires my attention during the day, I can attend to it and just work after dinner. So, flexibility and the fact that I can keep my daughter out of any kind of daycare are huge benefits that usually overcome the lack of time off. Usually. Until life gets in the way, and then I get a little angry.

My second obstacle to down time is the running of the house. My husband works a crazy amount of overtime himself, so other than paying the bills and the yard work, all the house is on me. My current schedule is to get up at 6, get me and the little one ready and her off to school, work until time to pick her up, homework after, then cleaning the kitchen and dinner, then bath and then bed. In that amount of time, I might have 30-60 minutes of downtime, and I tend to try to squeeze in some sewing then. But by the time she goes to bed, housework is out of the question as I have no more energy. So my off days are spent on that. Sometimes. The housework is the ball I drop the most often.

For most of last year, I was adamant I would not give up my hobby. I have always loved making beautiful things, and when I began quilting, I loved it even more for the fact that these things were also so practical. My doilies were beautiful - stunning - but they just sit there and look good. I love my quilts, and purse, and pillows, the things we use every day. But over the course of the last month, I've had to do some hard thinking about my limitations, and the sewing is the only thing that can give.

Oh, don't worry, I won't give it up entirely:) But I've decided I need to be more focused with my time and make sure each project is worth my time. Since it's obvious I'm going to have less time than I did last year, I want to use it more wisely. The quick and easy projects don't satisfy me. They didn't in crochet, and they don't in quilting. So next year is going to look very different. I've decided I would rather produce one stunning quilt a year than 100 smaller, easier projects. So, this is my trade off for having to cut way back on my sewing - I'll get to sew fancier stuff. I'm not sure that makes sense to anyone outside of my brain, but it's helping me accept my current way-too-tight schedule.

Sorry for the rambling, not at all lighthearted post, but I just needed to process these thoughts myself, and provide anyone who cared with an explanation not only to my silence over the last month, but probably my comparative silence over the next year or more.