Thursday, 31 October 2013

Little Red Riding Hood and Three Little Pumpkins

I wanted an excuse to make a cape.  So I casually suggested to my daughter that she should be Little Red Riding Hood for Halloween.  Lucky for me, she loved the idea!  No luck convincing my son to be the wolf.  He's Spiderman instead.  I wanted to use wool for the cape, but at $25 per metre, that wasn't going to happen.  So I used "tablecloth" fabric.  With the cape lined, it has a good enough weight, and looks nice.  I really just didn't want to use cotton broadcloth.  That would look too costume-like.  Good costumes should look and wear like clothing.  It's a full-circle cape, and I just free-handed the shape of the hood, using her coat's hood for the size.

I didn't have enough of the red to line the whole thing, so I just used the last of the red to line the hood and the front opening, and used some spare quilting cotton to line the rest.  My daughter desperately wanted to help, so I taught her how to sew the button on.  The knitted dress was a hand-me-down from a friend of German heritage.  I thought it would work nicely with the cape for a fairy-tale look.  Ideally, she should be wearing tights and mary-janes, but I didn't want to send her to school in white tights.  She did insist on wearing the shoes to school though.

We spent a bit of Saturday afternoon carving pumpkins.  The kids drew faces on theirs with a dry-erase marker and I carved them, with a bit of interpretive artistic license.  It's a pity they're soft and dried-out looking already on the front porch.  But then they only need to last the evening.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Knitting for a Baby

As the weather turns cooler, I've picked up my knitting again.  My friend had a sweet baby a few weeks ago, which coincided perfectly with the itch to knit again!  I made another pixie hat, this time in 0-6ish months size.  There are a few things I would change next time I make this size, but overall, it turned out adorably.

I had half a skein of yarn left after making the hat, so I tried to make baby booties.  After two failures with that, I then attempted leggings but quickly abandoned that too.  So then I decided to make something that didn't require a same-size pair.  I made a little owl.  It is far from perfect, but still pretty cute.

To get a size estimate, since I don't have a real live baby of my own, I had to try it on David, my new-born-size porcelain doll that I've had since I was 12 years old.  Most of the time he lives on the top shelf of my closet in a cardboard fruit box.  Eventually he will go live in my daughter's room.

It looks so much better on the real live baby.  C is so adorable!

photo by baby C's mama

photo by baby C's mama

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Classic Children's Books

A couple of weeks ago, I was chatting with a friend whose eldest, a boy, was about to turn eight years old.  He is a voracious reader, and my friend wondered what books would keep him busy.

I was that kind of reader, so I happily recounted my favourite books from childhood that I thought he might be interested in: several series by Sigmund Brouwer, Bill Meyer's Wally McDoogall books, and then I got into the classics.

Classic kids' books are beautiful.  The language and rhythm are unlike any modern book.  Over the past few years, I've begun collecting vintage editions of these books.  So I pulled a few from my shelves.

I'd have to say the top two I'd recommend are Swallows and Amazons, and The Swiss Family Robinson.  Both books are about adventure and family.  I didn't include books by L.M.Montgomery this time.  They deserve a separate post.

What are your favourite classic children's books?

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Little Red's Basket.

My son and I made a quick stop at a thrift store on Tuesday.  We were on the look out for an appropriate Little Red Riding Hood basket for my daughter's Halloween costume.  She didn't like the one I had because it was painted, and she wanted it "brown like the one in the movie" (Hoodwinked).

We found one, along with a pretty, old book, and a half-metre of red decor fabric.  The clerk put everything in the basket in such a charming way, I couldn't resist taking a picture.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Day 15: The End

This is what I posted on Facebook at 11:00 pm yesterday:
Oops, I totally forgot about blogging today. And since I'm already in bed, it is not going to happen. Instead of blogging, today I:
Edited, Forgot to eat breakfast, Baked a pumpkin pie, Went shopping with the family to about 4 different places including ridiculously understaffed Walmart, Forgot to eat lunch (but my coffee from Tim Hortons made up for it), Bought a lot of groceries, Baked multigrain onion bread, Washed sheets, Washed a load of clothes, Washed dishes twice, Made supper, Bathed a kid, Cut my husbands hair (rather well this time, if I do say so), And edited some more. 
Now I should be sleeping because I have the rest of the laundry to do tomorrow, and the housecleaning that didn't get done today. 
Happy Thanksgiving!
So that was the extent of my blogging yesterday.  Today, the leader of our moms' group couldn't make it, so I read the article she had been intending to share: A Message from the Future, to Moms of Littles.

The part that made me smile as I read was this: Forget achieving balance for a while. It’s okay if things are lopsided (as long as you’re staying afloat). The little years are demanding enough without judging yourself for coming up short on one piece of life’s pie chart or another. Some of the pie will wait.

The piece of the pie that got left out yesterday was blogging.  And I don't really care.  In fact, I think I'm going to stop the series here.  I won't stop striving for balance this month, or ever (I hope!), but in order to do so, I have to cut out what I can.  I need a smaller pie.  And so blogging about it has to go for now (and be honest: my series posts haven't been that interesting, I know). Maybe I'll give an update on how my life-balance is going at the end of the month.  And I'll still blog about the usual stuff when I get a when the laundry is caught up and I can get good pictures of my daughter in her Red Riding Hood cape that I made.

If you're also striving for balance, here are a couple of links that I've either read or intended to read over the past week or so:

3 Myths of Work/Life Balance - via Rags to Stitches
Lessons I've Learned From Working At Home - via All Things Fadra

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Day 13: Goals of Balance

Goals, goals, goals.  I'm not very good at setting concrete goals.  I'm better with dreams and wishes.  However, I've been thinking, and I've come up with a short list of results I'd like to see at the end of my 31 Days.

  1. The Kids: I don't want to leave their school work and piano practice 'til the last minute each day.  Luckily, we're getting into a bit of a weekday routine.  Spelling and reading before supper, after a short period of playtime to unwind, and my husband does piano with our daughter right after supper while I'm doing the dishes.  I also want to be able to take the time to go look at whatever cute thing they're doing when they call, and laugh and sing and read with them more.
  2. The Husband: I'm not sure what this goal should look like, but I know it's important to include my husband and our marriage in my balanced life.  And I can't plan for him, like saying I'd like us to talk more, or do more things, etc.  So I'll just say that I'd like to listen more.  And I'd like to be more gentle in my speech and my actions.
  3. The House: I'd like to keep up with the basic housekeeping daily, plus do one load of laundry per weekday.  Anything else will have to wait for Mondays (cleaning) or Fridays (projects).
  4. Editing: I need to keep on schedule.  If I don't, I will have a very stressful November.  My deadline is November 30th!
  5. Writing: Well, my only writing goal for this month is to keep up with the posts.  Editing is taking the #1 work priority right now.
I'm probably going to have to add this to my list of posts to read daily.  I need lots of reminders.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Day 12: What Goals?

“If you are not making the progress that you would like to make and are capable of making, it is simply because your goals are not clearly defined.” — Paul J. Meyer

Oh, so that's my problem!  I've been struggling with this series a little, which I'm sure has been evident in some of my posts.  Not just the actual balancing of my life, which I struggle with all the time, but the figuring out what I want to write about it.

What I should have done at the outset of this series is delineate exactly what I hope to accomplish, and how I plan to get there.  That would have required some forethought. (Oh dear...I'm starting to talk like a 1905 lawyer or something. Am I the only one who uses the words like "delineate" and "vacillate" in everyday non-business conversation?  Sometimes I feel a little self-conscious about my vocabulary. I swear, it comes naturally, and not only at midnight.)

So, since it is now midnight, I will sign off, and go to sleep mulling over my goals and plans and dreams...zzzzz...

Friday, 11 October 2013

Day 11: Give Me a Break

(Ok, so I just actually typed "Give Me a Beak"...time for bed, I think!)

Sometimes, no matter how careful I am not to become stressed out and overwhelmed, I still just need a break.  So that's what we did today.  No editing, no cleaning (ok, very little cleaning...I did sweep and wash a few dishes), just fun.  I can get so caught up in balancing my little bubble of suburban life that I can forget that there is anything outside of it.  And it does my brain good to get away.

First up: a fun meeting.  Technically it was work-related, but it was work to get excited about and a lovely visit with a fellow editor.  Our boys had a great time playing together too.

Next, we drove out to a corn maze to meet some friends and family.  N is just old enough to understand the point of going there, and thought it was his job to tell us which way to go.  After he helped us get lost, we gave that job to the grown-up men.

Finally, I headed out in the evening to meet Julie of Papercastle to get some photos done.  I've been wanting some professional photos for a while, and I knew Julie could capture the look I wanted (even though I wasn't sure exactly what that was.)  We'd intended to do the shoot in the spring, but things were a bit crazy.  So we decided to squeeze it in before this mild fall weather gives way to snow.  Contrary to my normal tendencies, I did not agonize for days about what to wear!  I just picked something that fit three criteria: 1, it had to let me wear my boots; 2, it had to require minimal fussing to look good; 3, It had to make me look skinny-ish.

So I chose a black lace dress, black leggings, pink cardigan, my hipster scarf, and my jean jacket.  And boots...those boots are very important!  I also chose to wear my glasses.  My turquoise glasses seem like part of my face, since I hardly ever wear contacts.  I don't look like myself without them

Since we're good friends and hadn't gotten together in a while, we went out for dinner, bookstore browsing, and dessert after.  A perfect girls' night.

And I'm ready to dive right into work tomorrow.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Day 10: Down to Business

Today I took some time to think about business stuff.  Until recently, I haven't really thought about the necessity of figuring out the business side of freelancing.  Then, as the date my son will start Kindergarten draws closer, and I'll have 2.5 hours to work, 5 days a week, I started to panic!  I don't know what I'm doing!  What records do I have to keep?  How do I figure out how much work I can handle? What about taxes? Etc, etc, etc.  I know that without planning ahead, my life will be one chaotic mess...the opposite of balanced.  So I'm trying to prevent that.

I think I need a mentor.  Unfortunately, I'm not yet a member of the Editors' Association of Canada, and so can't take advantage of their mentoring program.  Soon, I hope.  I need to save up, and be earning enough to justify the yearly fees.

I ordered two books from other countries, but couldn't find anything specifically Canadian.

The first, which I am now reading, is Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers, by Louise Harnby.  In spite of it's UK origins, I am already learning so much.

The second, which tops my "to read" pile, is Freelancing 101: Launching Your Editorial Business, by Ruth E. Thaler-Carter.

Some other articles I read today:
7 Ways to Kill Your Freelance Career Before It Starts
15 Steps to a More Productive Workday

With these resources, I'm feeling a bit more calm, and more confident in my ability to make it work.  We'll see how it goes!

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Day 9: Obsessed, Again.

Uh oh.  I am fully in the throes of another obsession.  The good news is, the obsession is editing!  Specifically, the magazine.  Although the book editing is going well too.  And I'm working out the business side of freelancing, thanks to two books I ordered.  The problem is, I'm neglecting other things.  Today I wrote on my to-do list, "book furnace cleaning", and "sell dresses."  And I did neither.  Nor did I do any of my basic housekeeping, except for taking 10 minutes to clear the counters.

Overall, the day was not bad.  But I still need to figure out how to actually DO the things I write on my list!  I can make a great list.  And then completely forget to look at it all day.

Instead, all my brain power is being sucked into my obsession.  I know such focus is a good thing...but how can I moderate it a little and not neglect everything else?

Lucky for my family, I did not forget to do school pick up or cook supper.  In fact, I had the meatloaf made and in the fridge by 3:30 just waiting to be baked.  And the entire family liked it.  That is a miracle.

I think I really need some help with this.  I'm off to google things like "self motivation", "life balance", and "how not to be a flake."  Feel free to post links to anything that might be helpful, or your own tips and stories in the comments.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Day 8: Me Time

Every one of my friends, upon hearing of my plan to dedicate one weekday to a specific task, ask, "But when do you take time for yourself?"

That's a good question!  Where in my schedule (Monday-Cleaning, Tuesday-Errands, Wednesday-Work, Thursday-Fun, Friday-Projects) is the time for me to relax, unwind, and schedule something for myself?

Well, my problem for the past couple of years has been too much time for myself.  But it wasn't relaxing in the least, even when I fooled myself into thinking it was.  How can I relax when I'm full of guilt for not fulfilling my responsibilities?  Sure, my kids were fed and clothed and taught, and the house wasn't quite festering, and my friends all told me I was being too hard on myself and I was doing fine.  But the problem was that I knew exactly how much time I was wasting.  I didn't need any computer software to tell me that.

So my "me time" has been put on the back burner for now.  I'm taking my plan to balance my life one step at a time to prevent my typical rebellion against deprivation.  That said, there are times in my schedule that definitely nurture my spirit and could be called "relaxing."

On Tuesday mornings, I attend a moms support group.  It is not the typical "playdate" group.  The main focus is mothers of preschoolers supporting each other.  The fact that the kids get to play and have fun too is incidental.  Today also included lunch at Ikea with a friend, and on Friday I'll have a girls night out for dinner.

And editing, when I get in the groove, is wildly fun for me.  I could happily edit for hours, so my biweekly work day is great.

Then there's my bootcamp class, which is so much fun, even though my back today feels like I went on some crazy amusement park ride thanks to a certain "reverse plank" activity.

Even though I don't regularly carve out time for, say, a long bath, or something like that, I am still feeling fulfilled.  The time I do get is sweeter when I know I've done my best that day.

What does "me time" look like for you?

Day 7: Procrastination

There is something I am really, really good at.  In fact, I could probably teach a class on it.  If I did, one of my lessons would be: "How to procrastinate productively."  Did you know you can still be productive while you avoid the things you really should be doing?

Things I should have done yesterday:
Take out the garbage
Polish bathrooms 2 & 3
Write this post
Edit a devotional
Edit my daily quota of pages
Things I did yesterday:
Polished bathroom 1
Baked cookies!
Wasted a little time on the internet (not as much as I could have)
Cleaned and vacuumed both kids' bedrooms
Walked to pick up the kids from school
Helped with kids' schoolwork
Overall, it wasn't that bad of a day.  I did get some of my cleaning done.  Yay!.  But instead of doing what I really needed to do, I chose to do things that didn't further my goals or help me balance my life.  Which messes with today's schedule.

Yes, baking cookies for my family is great!  But it would have been better if I had done my editing, to avoid the stress of being behind schedule.  And my husband says the gingersnaps should have chocolate chips.  Have you ever heard of that?  I might have to try that next time (AFTER my stuff for the day is done!)

Yes, walking to school is great, and I'm glad I went because the kids had so much fun picking wild flowers and weeds and rocks as we crossed the vacant lots.  But I should have made sure I had things done before taking that time.

It's all about balance.  There is nothing wrong with doing these great, fun, things.  But as I learned from reading my husband's old copy of Seven Habits of Successful Teens, "First Things First"!  Or, as I recently read in Eat That Frog, "Eat the biggest, ugliest frog first" (as in, do the least appealing task first).

So, when my list of essentials is done I can take time to do things like baking, refinishing the kitchen table, or sewing a red riding hood cape for halloween.

Do you procrastinate?  Do you try to fool yourself into feeling productive by doing non-essential things at the wrong time?

Ta ta!  I'm off to get a start on that editing I skipped before the kids wake up.  Day 8's post is coming later today. if I don't procrastinate again.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Day 6: Brain Power

My brain won't shut off.  I feel like I hardly slept last night due to the thoughts, plans, and ideas racing through my head.  I don't know what it is.  Maybe it's that I spent nearly all day yesterday editing.  Maybe it's the excitement of new ideas for the magazine I work for.  Maybe it is the inspiration of my mostly-productive week.  Maybe my brain is waking up and realizing that I actually want to do something with it after four years or so of not challenging it.

In spite of coming from a family deservedly proud of its collective intellect, I haven't felt very smart lately.  Instead of excelling at life (like I did in my highschool English classes), I've been scraping by (just like my highschool math classes).  Not from lack of ability, but rather from lack of motivation and dedication.

After my son was born, I decided that I needed to re-prioritize my life.  As much as I loved making things, I pared down my creative activities. This was yet another attempt to achieve balance in my life.  I knew I wanted to write again, and had to make time for it somewhere.  So I cut out what I could.  My artistic sister-in-law benefited, since I gave her my entire stash of scrap-booking and stamping supplies.

The trouble is, after doing so, for one reason or another I did not get back into writing as much as I wanted to.  My creative energy had nowhere to go, and I suppose it decided to shut down, except for short bursts here and there when I found new obsessions.

I hope my brain energy also translates into physical energy today, or I'm going to be in desperate need of a nap this afternoon.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Day 5: What is Basic Housekeeping to you?

I mentioned that one of my non-negotiable tasks is "basic housekeeping."  What is that?

Basic housekeeping is going to look different for everyone.  It is maintaining the minimum standard of cleanliness a family needs to function, and feel comfortable and at peace with the home.  I have some friends for whom a top to bottom scrub of the house is their minimum standard.  Mine is nowhere close to that.  I'm still working out what mine should include, but this is what I have so far:


  • counters washed daily, and as needed throughout the day.
  • floor swept daily, and as needed (thanks to my new dust mop, my 4-year-old has been helping with that), and spot cleaned
  • dishes washed each evening, and put away sometime the next day (flylady says it should be the same day, but I'm perfectly comfortable with letting them air dry overnight.  I get that shiny-sink feeling with a fresh, clean stack of dishes).
  • stove and range hood wiped daily
  • table washed after each meal, and as needed
  • surfaces dusted as needed
  • clutter put away regularly

Living Room:

  • floor swept and spot cleaned as needed
  • surfaces dusted
  • entry rug free of sand, mud, dirt, etc
  • toys removed from the room.


  • sinks, counters, and toilets shined/dusted daily (we have a very dusty house!)
  • shower, tub, sinks, and toilets scrubbed weekly and as needed.
  • floor cleaned weekly and as needed


  • tidied daily
  • beds made each morning
  • vacuumed weekly
  • sheets washed weekly


  • Vacuum hall and stairs...I don't know how often.  Weekly maybe?  I hate vacuuming stairs!
  • Tidy toys in basement as needed
  • Vacuum basement as needed
  • Spot clean walls as needed

Wow, the list seems longer typed out than it did in my head!  Now, of course I'm not going to do this every single day.  Nor am I going to jump in with both feet and try to do it all at once.  One thing at a time, slowly introduced into my routine should do the trick.  So maybe by next year I'll have this all down pat.  We'll see.

Currently I'm pretty good with the kitchen...because it would just be gross if there wasn't some level of cleanliness there.  My biggest challenge is dealing with clutter.  Especially my work-related clutter, since most of my work is done at the kitchen table, where I spread out with papers and reference books and notes and a plethora of pens.  In the rest of the house, I'm horribly inconsistent.

So how am I going to deal with my inconsistency?  I have printed out my list of priorities from Day One, and when I find myself bored, procrastinating, or wasting time, I try to remember to look at it and refocus on what I should be doing.  And I multitask.  If I'm on the phone with a friend, I use the cordless and move around doing little tasks from my housekeeping list, like putting dishes away or tidying.  I have printed out the list in this post too, as a reminder of what I need to do.  Wish me luck!

What does "basic housekeeping" look like to you?  Do you feel on top of it? Or, like me, are you behind and feeling guilty about it?

Friday, 4 October 2013

Day 4: Be the Boss, Be the Employee

Going back to Jaimie Engle's article, Balancing Act: How to Live as a Wife, Mother & Writer, I wanted to talk about another point she made.  Under the heading, Discipline, two things she listed are, "Be the Boss", and "Be the Employee."

In my work-at-home dreams, I never really thought about how it was going to pan out.  I didn't realise that I would have to struggle to conquer my own personality in order to get work done and be a responsible person.

Be the Boss
This includes setting schedules, goals, and expectations.  Not only do I need to be the boss in my work, but I also need to be the boss in the rest of  my duties as well.  I need to be able to plan ahead, and see the big picture.  Knowing myself, and my track record of procrastination in the past couple of years, I sometimes tend to avoid planning and scheduling, because I "know" I'll just mess it up again.  But as the maxim goes, "If you aim for nothing, you'll hit it every time."  If I (the boss) don't have a plan and let myself (the employee) procrastinate, a big task such as my current editing contract will be crammed into the last two weeks before my deadline, causing nothing but stress and family/marital discord.  That would not be fun.  And if things don't have deadlines, they might not get done at all.

So for my contract, before I picked a deadline, I made sure to calculate how much editing I could reasonably do in one week, and built in plenty of buffer time to make sure that even if I fall off the wagon for a while, or if something major in life interrupts, I can still get it done on time.  It's going well so far.

Be the Employee
If I were an employee of a business and acted like I do on some of my lazier days, I would be quickly fired.  Honestly, I would fire me.  As an employee (of myself), I need to follow through with the plans set by the boss.  The boss says, "Do this today.", so I'd better get that done, or else.  I haven't quite figured out how to make myself be a good employee when there is no one watching me.  I'm much better at being the boss, with grandiose lists and ambitious plans that never get completed (As a kid I used to design castles, for heaven's sake!)

Double Denim

I love my denim jacket.  The second I saw it in the store, I had to have it.  That was at least 5 or 6 or 7 years ago.  and I still love it.  When I'm having a feeling-fat day, I can put it on, button it up, and instantly feel trim.  But I haven't worn it a lot over the past few years.  Because of the so-called double-denim fashion faux pas.  I wear jeans almost all the time, so I'd bypass my beloved denim jacket in favour of a tan double-breasted cotton twill jacket that I don't love (because it makes me look shorter and wider, or so my imagination tells me).

But no more.  For every day, when I'm running out of the house wearing jeans, I will grab the jacket that makes me feel good.  Because fashion for me is all about confidence, not about rules.

Jacket: Smart Set
Jeans: Silver
Tank top and shirt that you can barely see: Costco and hand-me-down Lululemon
Scarf: Mexico
Hat: Knitted by me.
pleated poppy

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Day 3: A Stressless, Guiltless Day

And makeup-less, incidentally.
Ooh, I had a great day!  My son spent the day at my friend's house, and I stayed home to work.  I had a few time-wasting slip-ups, but quickly got myself back on track.  Using a productivity timer app on my iPod, I managed to keep on task, and got a decent amount of editing done.

Get this: I even managed to make it out of the house to Starbucks.  Alone!  It was great, and my coffee was free (thanks to yet another did we live before they were invented?)  Once back at home, with my half-hour break over, I was back to work.

This is the kind of day I've dreamed about ever since I decided I wanted to work at home.  No stress or guilt, tasks were completed, the house was sort of clean (cleaner than it usually is anyway), and I didn't feel deprived of  anything.  That part is most important.  Deprivation makes me rebel.

When it was almost time to go get the kids from school (my daughter, and my friend's two kids), I took a moment to think, "Ok, what do I need to accomplish after school."  And I made a list:

- Spelling practice (with my daughter)
- Home reading (daughter)
- Printing practice (with my son)
- Put away the dishes
- Put away the laundry
- Vacuume
- Make supper
- Lightly clean the bathrooms.

The list was, I thought, a little ambitious, but I figured I'd put it all on to keep myself moving between school and supper.  After school, I decided to accept my friend's invitation to stay for tea, so that took an hour and a half of my time...certainly well worth it though.  And she was gracious enough not to show any boredom as I chattered on and on and on about editing.  Even with that interruption, I still only missed two things...and replaced them with sweeping the kitchen and bathing the kids.

So, you may be wondering what I did to have such a terrific day.  I've been thinking about that.  Here are my answers.

  1. I got out of bed early.  6:20 AM, when my norm since school started has been about 6:45 or so.  When I don't get up enough before the kids, I don't have any time to consider the day drink some tea, and just have quiet.  My kids start their non-stop talking as soon as the hit the kitchen.
  2. I did not plan out my entire day.  Instead, I planned a segment at a time.  I decided I would work on FellowScript columns in the morning.  Once back from my coffee break, I then dove in to the book I'm editing (I be thinkin' in Irish again, an' me brain is a bit overloaded).

Without those two things, I think I would have been my typical before-school self: cranky, rushed, impatient, stressed, and guilty that I couldn't manage things better.