Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Small Wins: To Begin

My hubby took my picture when he picked me up after my first day of paid work in 17 years this fall. It was a huge win.

As far as I understand it (which may not be very far) a small win is something that moves you forward towards achieving your goal. Apparently, according to the research, it is the small wins which, over time, get you to your goal.

Say you had a goal of writing a novel. Getting up and meeting your word count for the day would be a "small win."

Losing weight-- which is part of my goal for my health this year --involves a myriad of small changes and hopefully a lot of small wins. To get the ball rolling, I have enrolled in a class by Cathy Zielske at Big Picture Classes called "Jumpstart." I plan to share the class with you while I work on it.

My first assignment was to make an introductory page with a favourite picture and my statement of intention. Getting that page done (above) is my first small win.

Journaling reads:

I am starting this year-- the year I am turning 50 --with a laser-intense focus on my health and vitality. My health rests on a tripod of great food, varied exercise, and sound sleep. I am going to use this program to help me establish some great habits -- for the rest of my life.

Monday, December 30, 2013

New Direction

I don't have that much to say about keeping house any more.

(Illustration notwithstanding, I'm not going to say much about beer, either! Though, I do love me a strong beer. Have you done a google image search for "strong women"? Crazy stuff.)

The struggle isn't over: it is still a challenge to keep the house picked up and clean, but the nature of the challenge has changed. It's not so much about overcoming my internal resistance, but more about overcoming or managing the external obstacles: time, and the habits of the people I live with. I may continue to write about that from time to time, but I really don't think there's enough to write about twice a week.

The same goes for organizing. Thanks to "The FUNdamentals of Getting Organized." at Simplify 101 I am about as organized as I need to be. Except for paperwork, I have extremely effective systems in place. My budget binder keeps our finances on track, my menu planning keeps me sane. Except for the tchotchkes on a table in the basement, everything has a home: it's just a matter of getting things into them. Organizing projects, thus, are not the priority they once were. I have made up an organizing schedule where I plan to tackle one area of the house each month. I'll keep you posted on that.

As for decorating, I am itching to paint more than a few rooms. I would love to change up more than a few things. But, as we still have debt, I am doing my best to keep changes to a minimum. As well, I just don't have the time I used to have.

No, my focus is shifting away from caring for my home and towards caring for my body. I lost 40 pounds from October 2012 to May of 2013. Since May, though, I have put it all back on. I miss being forty pounds slimmer. Life was considerably easier without aching knees and the awkwardness of trying to bend over sausage shaped. I have plans in place to help me change things-- and I'd like to share those plans and this journey with you here. I think of those of you who read and comment as friends-- so I am taking a leap and hoping you will continue to be interested in what I have to say even when it isn't about the house, but about my body instead.

So, here's to a new year--and a new direction for my life and the blog.

I'm curious, are any of you embarking on any big changes this year?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Story of a Gallery Wall, Part Deux

Before, before.

from June 2012

Pretty but vapid.

After the Tchotchke Challenge in June, I rearranged the living room and "floated" the couch.

That left the gallery wall looking like this:

I didn't do anything right away, because I wasn't sure if things were going to stay this way or not.

One of the things I realised during the Tchotchke challenge is that I wanted more meaning in my home. I have long tried to live according to the strict interpretation of Morris's maxim; that is, I like my things not merely beautiful, but useful, too. Wanting both beauty and now, meaning, seemed a natural evolution.

In July, it seemed, the stars aligned.

Both IKEA and my photo developer had a sale in the same week. Frames were 50% off and 8x10's were going for 40% off. I decided that I would take down the pretty crap, make the wall more meaningful and get vacation photos that I'd taken up onto the wall.

I bought the frames (VIRSERUM (black) and RIBBA (black and brown))  and worked on the photos feverishly for two evenings. On the third, I went to upload them for developing-- and discovered the sale was over.

I'd already started mucking with the wall, though.

I moved the couch back against this wall when I put down the newly cleaned carpet.
July to December 2013

I have been checking every week ever since.

Last week, I found out that the 8x10's were on sale again and so I started to play. I found some photos I'd thought I'd lost from a trip we took out east five years ago. That was good.

I decided I would mix my photos with paintings I found at Value Village (and other places). I traced each frame onto stiff paper and arranged them on the wall.

Many times.

This is only a small sample. If I counted right, I made eleven discrete arrangements.  Moving paper is easy.

Here's where I started:

 I quickly decided I wanted to make it bigger and go from one lamp to the other.

I experimented with making a straight horizontal line through the composition.

I decided I wanted it as random and as jagged as possible.

It occurred to me, as I studied the pictures I took of each arrangement, that, really, a good number of them "would do." I almost lost my way completely and scurried over to my Pinterest board to get back on track. Even after I looked at many arrangements I liked, it was clear to me there was no "one" right way to do it. I did have one or two doosies along the way, though.

Those coloured bits on the brown paper are small copies of the photos I sent for developing. The squares without pictures represent paintings.

 But, fortunately, balance can be achieved in many ways.

It took me more than a couple of days, working here and there. Finally, on Sunday, with my daughter's input, I got it done.

It changed again, of course.

That's my helper there on the sofa. She made an excellent argument for leaving off the plates (the round bits in the pictures above.)
The before and after:
(I did not move the wall hanging.)


One more:

I love the strength of it.

Linking to Work It Wednesday at Happy Housie.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Outdoor Christmas Decor

This month, I am struggling with most of the blogs I visit and love. It's no particular blog--it's just this general feeling I have picked up that somehow to be blog worthy, it must be "pinterest-worthy." There's a message creeping through that our holiday décor needs to be inventive, imaginative, unique, beautiful and environmentally conscious. To me, it seems we're reinventing Christmas in order to have new things to show each other.

Nothing wrong with that. But, I'm not there. I'm just not. And I have no wish to be. Not this year.

For example, the humble Christmas wreath.


On a little internet jaunt one night, I came across it reinterpreted in fabulous and inventive ways. Clothespins! Embroidery Hoops! Even those made with greenery, ribbons and ornaments looked fresh and new. (The collection which I'm speaking about can be accessed here.)

There are some really wonderful wreath projects out there--and some unique and gorgeous Christmas decor--and they are just the thing if you are looking to infuse your decorating with something new and different--if you need a bit of something to get your creative juices flowing.

But from where I sit all this wonderful creativity is a choice, not a necessity.

You do not have to create beautiful, unique, creative Christmas décor. You don't even have to create simple, frugal, minimalist Christmas décor. You don't have to have any décor at all-- that's not what Christmas is all about. We all know this, already. I just wanted to remind us.

Many years ago, decorating for Christmas was a creative outlet for me. Before I married, I used to take great pains with wrapping presents. Nothing too far out there--but every single one had an artfully placed ribbon (sometimes two) and a bow. My first Christmas as a married woman, I made a popcorn garland. It was my beginning to celebrating Christmas with my own little family.

But as the years have gone by, Christmas has become less and less about me and what I want--and more and more about us, the family, the kids, and what, sometimes, they want. No one but me really wants to fuss. And so, over the years, I've learned to let it go.

My own wreath, an old fake form of wire and plastic simulating pine boughs, festooned with various picks my daughter found at Michael's seems, well, unambitious would be one word I could use.

My daughter loved the colours in the berries and the sparkle of the birds. So did I. I gave her the job of putting it together while I was at work, but she wasn't happy with her efforts.

So, I did it.


My husband and my son hung the lights one day while I was at work, too. As my husband drove me home one dark evening, he didn't say a word about it. It wasn't 'til we rounded the corner to the house that I knew they had gone out and put them up. It was a lovely surprise. My husband enjoyed the fuss I made.

Taken at 8am. It's too cold to set up the tripod and take a proper photo in the dark!

This is us.

This is how we have chosen to celebrate Christmas. The decorations are things we do together--and the "together" part is our challenge --and our choice-- this year.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

November Goals Report.

Our first snowfall was Nov 4.


I set my goals low: and I failed to meet them.

As far as I recall, I had planned to
  1. clean the living room and prepare it for Christmas
  2. clean the kitchen
  3. plan Christmas activities, begin to make progress on Christmas cards and the calendar
  4. sew a slipcover for my POANG chair.
Using small pockets of time, as I found them, I rearranged the living room and decluttered the shelves. I took down the inadequate purple drapes and put up the brown ones.

I purchased some Christmas cards and some paper for the Calendar.
I put up my wreath.

We finished sprucing up the back entry way and I spring-cleaned our bedroom. (Thank goodness.)

We moved out our old range.

After we got it down the three steps from the kitchen to the landing, we realised it was too wide to go through the door. My son had the brilliant idea to remove the stove top. It fit--just barely.

That's it.

I am still finding my feet after starting to work part-time. My hours are erratic and I don't know what they are until three weeks before. (For example, I have no idea what days and hours I am working Christmas week.) Some weeks I work 29 hours, some 22. (The 29 hour weeks have been more common, however. Come to Alberta, people. No one has enough staff.) So far, it seems that all I have time for on my days off is running errands and cleaning the house.

A couple of things I've also managed:
  1. keeping our budget up to date. By this, I mean I have been recording what we spend weekly, paying bills on time and paying down our debt. This was why I took a job so it's great to see my efforts actually paying off. (you may groan.)
  2. menu planning. I do this weekly, now, because I need the flexibility. It is a chore. But I cannot imagine trying to figure out what's for dinner and checking the freezer, the fridge and the pantry to scrounge something together every single day. Once a week is quite enough!

I volunteered with some parents of my daughter's school this month and I was shocked--not one woman in that room besides myself planned dinner further ahead than that evening. One ate out or microwaved something exclusively, all the time--as did her kids. Unfortunately, I was also the fattest person in the room, so I felt I hadn't much credibility in the "but it is better for you" argument. (Though it is and I know my being fat has nothing to do with it. It is better to eat home cooked meals than processed stuff, no contest. I'd probably be even fatter if we didn't eat at home every night of the week!)

So, I will continue to adjust my expectations and organize my time so I can get out of this cycle of work--do dishes-do laundry-clean the house--work--do dishes-do laundry-clean the house--work--do dishes-do laundry-clean the house--work--and so on.

But, probably not in December!

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