Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What I was going to do this year

Today I want to share my goals for 2011 with you. What, you say, doesn't one do that in January? True. But, you see, I didn't have a blog to share anything on in January. Partly because starting a blog was one thing on the goal list (of course there is a list for this. Come on, what did you expect?).

Anyway, the advantage of going through the goals now is that there isn't much time left to 2011 and it makes me evaluate which of the ones on the list I still can and want to do. So here we go, in no particular order:

1) take the kids to the library
My kids love to read. Well, not that they're actually reading yet, but they love being read to and looking at books. And it's not like we don't have enough books. We have a lot, both in their rooms and downstairs in the living room. Still, I thought it would be a good idea to show them how a library works and getting all sorts of different books on many different topics. This was the first thing I started with in January and we've been going most weeks, it's part of our Wednesday routine. Sometimes we get bigger books so we skip the weekly trips for a bit until we've finished the book (biggest one so far has been Astrid Lindgren's The Six Bullerby Children).

2) try a new recipe each week
I've actually been pretty good about that one, although I tend to cheat a little and take the easy way out with a new cake or muffin recipe on the weekend rather than cooking a new dish for weeknight dinner. Still, I found some recipes that are added to the dinner rotation, such as Ina Garten's Garlic and Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes (I just love Ina's cookbooks. I have every single one. And I didn't even realize until just now looking for a recipe link that she also does a TV show. Oops), Chicken and Broccoli with Brown Sauce, Spinach and Chickpeas with Spiced Yoghurt, Chicken Satay Stir Fry (from Real Simple), Salmon Grilled on a Cedar Plank (based on a Fine Cooking recipe but not using the sauce), a mascarpone cream that turned out to be the kids favorite dessert, some first tries at cupcakes (all Hummingbird Bakery recipes), Hummus (so I haven't made hummus before. I know. Hey, I did start!) and Chicken with Cantonese Light Sauce which ended up our favorite stir-fry.

I think I'll continue this one next year. I have a ton of cookbooks but I always end up making the same recipes. And even for this I usually ended up making something I saw on a blog or elsewhere on the Internet. For next year I think I'll pick a cookbook per month (or maybe by week, otherwise I'm never going to get through the collection...) and try recipes from it.

3) start a blog
Done! Yay! 

4) save some money and get better about how I spend it 
Working on that one. Separate post I'd say. After all, we (ok, I) want No. 3 to also include "maintain blog", so I need to save some post material here... 

5) learn to sew
Yeah... well. I do have a sewing machine, a cheap thing bought at the end of last year.  I love handmade things and I buy a lot of handmade stuff for the kids as well as gifts from Dawanda (a platform similar to etsy but more common here in Germany) - Kindergarten bags, hats, scarfs... I also keep seeing all these great ideas and tutorials on other blogs. And I really, really would love to be able to sew at least a couple basic things, you know, like tote bags, lunch bags, little pouches, kids' hats, pillow covers. Maybe even new Kindergarten bags. I just haven't had the time yet and I don't really know where to start. I tried registering for a class, but that was full. Yeah, lame excuses, you're right.

Looking at all the stuff I wanted to accomplish, I decided I'm moving this to the bottom of the list. If it doesn't get done this year, which it very likely won't, then so be it. I've been reading a lot of posts lately about setting priorities and balancing all the things in your life. And I've come to realize, finally, after five years of being a mommy, that maybe I can't have it all and that maybe that's perfectly ok. There will be a time for sewing classes and handmade Christmas gifts for everyone on my list, but maybe that time is not 2011. Maybe not even 2012. Last time I checked sewing machines didn't have an expiration date...

So I ended up buying new Kindergarten bags for the kids. They're still personalized and homemade - just not by me. And to be honest, they turned out much cuter than I could have ever done it. I still smile every time I see them. And I'm fine looking at my sewing machine sitting on my desk gathering dust. Maybe next year...

6) be more relaxed with the kids
I'm still working on that one, and I don't think I'll ever be done. I'm just not a very relaxed person. Stop laughing, will you?! OK, I'm NOT AT ALL relaxed. More like a perfectionist who needs everything to be done just so. And ahead of time. And planned. According to my list, of course. Hence my migraines...

Anyway, I've read a lot of good posts about this (one of my favorites is Greta's post over at Lilly and the brothers: Are You a Yes Mom?) and I'm working on it. Because I know it works. If you're relaxed, the kids are much more relaxed, too. Stuff will still go wrong, the kids will fight or throw a temper tantrum. But it won't be as bad. What I also find is that it helps soooooo much so just get outside once you start getting grumpy or the kids (literally) run around the dining room table screaming and chasing each other. Groundbreaking revelation. But it works.

7) finish that basement.
Don't even get me started on that one. It's a project from hell. And it's definitely a separate post.

8) declutter the house and add some more personal touches
I could start telling you how pregnant I was when we designed the house or how little the little brother was when we moved in. I could tell you how busy my husband was with work and the house or how busy I was with kids and my job. And how we put our money towards the most energy-efficient house we could afford and not the most stylish furniture because you can always replace furniture later on but it's hard to upgrade the house.

But the truth is that no matter why, we simply have a lot of Ikea furniture and that there is a lot of clutter left over from not getting organized enough before we moved and that I didn't spend much time decorating the house. So there you have it. Don't get me wrong, I love this house and it turned out exactly the way I wanted it (well, except for some small details here and there maybe...). But the first year I was just glad we made it through. Baby, house, back at work: all within three months. And enough for me.

Then came those projects you don't really think about too much when you make plans for the house but that take up a surprisingly high amount of time (and money). Like a garden. Porch. Fence. Oh and the projects you do because you're just plain crazy (or your wife is plain crazy and you're nice enough to do them anyway...), like a playhouse for the kids. With a second story and a sandbox, of course.

That leaves you with a million small projects left over from when you moved in - you know the ones: unpack that last box. Find and install a light fixture in the hallway. Hang some art. Organize your closets instead of just stuffing things in when you unpacked those boxes. Combine that with someone who just discovered blogland and all those great decluttering and DIY projects (8-step home cure, anyone?) and you have my goal No. 8 for this year:  1) find the things we truly love or use and toss/donate the rest and 2) make it look less like a bad remake of an Ikea showroom and more like our home.

And I'm happy to report there's been progress on this one. Mainly because it can be broken up into so many small projects and steps. Ahhhh, opening a drawer or cabinet that you have just organized last week: bliss. Yes, I do realize I have to do this again like six months down the road. But keep that to yourself right now and let me enjoy the moment, will you? I actually keep a running list of all the things I've accomplished within the note section of this task on my to do list. Don't worry, I'm not going to share. Well, not all of it at least. Also I'm really, really bad at taking before shots. Anyone else here doing projects and realizing halfway through that you forgot to take a picture of the mess / blank wall / baby crib you just organized / hung some art / sold and replaced with a big boy bed? So you'll have to believe me when I say it really did look worse before... I'm currently doing a lot of organizing (and selling!) of children's clothing, more on that some other time.

9) learn to take better pictures and learn to use my camera
So IF I remember to take pictures I want to take better ones. Let's face it, there is no lack of inspiration for really great photos in blogland. Most (all?) of my favorite blogs post really, really nice photos. Like Yvonne. Amazing, isn't she?

They're all different, but they're great. And I have a lot to learn. So far I have made a point of taking more pictures that actually have no kids in them (gasp!) and shooting some more detail. And I have just started taking pictures of things I cook. For my birthday I got two books that are hopefully going to help: From Plate to Pixel by Helene Dujardin and the Shutter Sister's guide to Expressive Photography.

Haven't had a chance to read much yet, I think I have to make an effort to reach for one of these instead of my laptop once the kids are asleep. I also want to actually read my camera's manual. Might help, don't you think? And try taking pictures without the auto-everything setting. For practice I plan to start on non-moving things, you know, like flowers or landscape or cake (although that does sometimes disappear...). For next year I think I'm going to challenge myself to participate in one of those photo projects floating around the Internet, not sure I can do a 365 one like Benita did but I'd like to find something I can do. I'll keep you posted!

So there you have it, my list for 2011.

At the start of the year I wanted to cross stuff of my list asap. Like everything at once. So I ended up running around like a crazy, getting way too many migraines and being grumpy when I didn't really accomplish anything that day. Or week. Or month. Eventually I decided to pick things to work on and leave the rest for later. Good old prioritzing. It sort of worked. I decided to push some stuff like sewing and the blog to when little brother would start Kindergarten. August. By August I would be SO productive. Three hours a day for three mornings a week - that has got to be productive, right? The first week was great. Then reality started to set in. A house to be cleaned. My coworkers pushing me, uhm, no, convincing me, to stop complaining about my post pregnancy No 2 belly and do something about it. Like exercise. Oh, and then my favorite: scope creep. Adding things to the list while you go. Like that belly thing or finally adding some style to my wardrobe (hey, I can try, right?).

Suddenly I had a lot of those free hours gone already. But you what? That's ok. Because as I said, I've also come to realize that I need to keep in mind that my kids are still small. You see, I need something productive, something crossed off my list to stay sane and keep me from being grumpy. And cleaning the house doesn't count, because that gets undone faster than you can cross it off a list. Besides, there are just so many things I find interesting - and a lot of things that just need to get done.

When big brother was born I remember walking around the neighborhood looking at other people go about their lives and wondering when I would get mine back. If ever. My baby was not one of those who would peacefully nap in his crib. He preferred to nap with mommy. And when little brother was born I was a lot more relaxed about the whole thing - but I also had a toddler and a new house. For quite I while it was like playing catch up and never winning.

It still is somewhat. But my attitude has changed. Because I've realized that my life will keep changing and that time with my kids is not only precious, but also won't last forever. What seems like forever when you have a newborn in reality goes so fast. Too fast. You enjoy seeing them grow up but you also can't help wondering where your little baby went. They learn to walk, talk and go to Kindergarten. Soon enough, they'll go to school. They'll have friends. And one day they will rather play with their friends than with their mommy. So I'm enjoying the time I have with them, I play Legos or go to the park. I don't look at my inbox, I don't try to squeeze in projects. I do sometimes take them grocery shopping when I don't get that done on the way home from work and I will let them help cleaning the house or doing laundry because I think they should learn that this things don't miraculously do themselves (unfortunately).

What also helps is realizing, that you don't necessarily need to have big blocks of time to get something done. I'm not good at leaving something unfinished but I'm getting much better. Especially on projects like the basement - just close the door ;) But also with other things, like my annual photo book or organizing closets, I just start and work on it for as long as I have time and then continue some other time.

Changing my attitude and yeah, those free three hours for three days a week have made things much more relaxed. I can choose what I want to get done during the morning and if it doesn't get done by noon, then it's simply not going to get done. And, surprise, my migraine attacks have been fewer, too!

Recommended reading:

If you haven't read enough by now (goal for 2012: stop babbling and write shorter blog posts!), I thought these posts were really helpful:

Lilly and the brothers: On Being Perfect
Lilly and the brothers: They Just Want to be With Me
Small Notebook: The Lost Rule of Organizing
Small Notebook: The Jam Jars
Small Notebook: How to Protect Your Time from Too Many Good Ideas
Simplify101: You don't need an extra hour a day

And, if you have lots of free time or energy and are NOT trying to cut down on your to do's, I'd say read all of Benita's posts at Chez Larsson. Most. Organized. Space. Ever. And the whitest space ever.  

I already have a few things on my 2012 list. More cooking. Photography. Sewing (try again). Although I will have to think hard about what I put on that list. Less than this year, for sure. Maybe that's a good one: do less. Shorten to-do list. What about you?


  1. Those are pretty awesome goals!

    Here some link you might enjoy :

    I'm completly obsessed with her organization skills

    And this link for the photography :

    Her photoshop actions are incredible (and free)

  2. Thanks! Yes, Chez Larsson is one of my favorite blogs, she really is amazing!

    Off to put the kids to bed and then go check out the pioneer woman...


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