Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Small additions can be great - the sofa table edition

You might have noticed something different if you were very familiar with my main living/dining room and were looking at the picture of the hoya plant in my weekend in pictures post from a few weeks back.

Over the last year I've been dreaming of having a sofa table for storing kid toys, games, and books to go behind the couch in the living room part of the main room. Behind the couch is where we had been keeping Little M's toy bucket, filled with whatever selection of toys we currently had out for her, be it Lego's, doll & dress up clothes, or one of 2 selections of assorted small toys. Our area rug was back there, and we sometimes also had a rocking chair against the wall too. The plan for the area was for it to be a sort of kid-zone, where she was able to ignore the TV since the couch was in the way, and be in a more central location - close to the kitchen, dining room table, and couch. It was working quite well, although often we would have the toy bucket plus several of the storage bins of toys from the hallway, plus a bunch of stuffed animals from her room, plus... You get the picture.
Ahem, this dirty carpet? the result of the Christmas tree falling over twice in the course of an afternoon... christmas tree fail!

Clean up time ended up being more about moving bins back to their hallway or bedroom destinations than about actually cleaning or sorting toys. I was getting sick of hauling bins around, and thought it would be great to have a shelving unit of some sort so that her area could be even more her area. And also so the hallway closet could be devoted to storing other things (like all of the office stuff that used to be in the spare-room-to-be-turned-Little-M-big-girl-room!).

So I put an ikea sofa table on my christmas wish list, and as Christmas Day rolled around, I was rather overly excited to discover that my mother-in-law had happily obliged! After a bit of trouble shooting to get it fitted into our Escape along with our 3 dogs including 2 set up kennels and 1 collapsed kennel, the 3 of us humans, and all of our weekend away gear (plus presents!), I managed to convince everything to just fit in the gosh darn vehicle for me. Yes, there was some creating packing, and our half-way-home pit stop entailed a little bit of manuvering to get access to Little M's potty seat, but we managed to fit everything in, and got the ikea boxes home.

I quickly fell to setting the sofa table up (well, after unpacking the Escape and putting most of the Christmas stuff away), and put it in place. While I was amazed at how much stuff I could fit in it, I was a little dismayed that there was really only room for Little M's toys - more of a quantity of toys issue than a sofa table space issue methinks! It actually worked out well to just have her toys in it, as it made the space much more clearly the kid-zone as opposed to a shared space for some of my puzzles and books as well.

With the addition of the play kitchen (yes, still not quite finished!), my favorite bouncy chair, and Little M's bookshelf, the whole space turned into a great little play and reading area. I'm really happy with the additional space in the hallway closet & in Little M's bedroom shelves, and with not having to lug storage tubs back and forth every couple of days! This way, she can get the bins out on her own, and put them away on her own too - she's becoming quite the tidy-er :) Because of the life season we are in right now, you can see I really don't worry about having everything tucked away just so - the books are rarely staged-photo-worthy, neither are the bins, but just having spots to tuck all of those items away makes the whole area look much more structured & neat I think!

I also love how we've been able to incorporate reading into her daily routine so much easier with the bookshelf right there. before, she occasionally would sit in her room and read books on her bed, but now I quite often find her with a huge pile of books around her, just sitting and 'reading' the perfect selection happily by herself. Not to mention it is a great spot for her and I to sit while reading our bedtime stories!

To cap it off, I'm really pleased with how a relatively small addition has added so much function and purpose to our space! I thought about building my own version of the ikea table, but looking at the progress I've made on the play kitchen past the 'just get it functional' stage, I'm glad I have only 1 rather unfinished piece in the room not two! Ahem, not to mention the lack of window trim, etc - but I love our home, unfinished as it always is!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

on chicken eggs and nothing much else

Woo Hoo - our chickens have seriously amped up egg production and we've been getting 5 or 6 eggs a day this week! Time to start selling eggs again after the last 2 months of not always having enough for our table. I would have pictures to share of all these glorious eggs, the chickens happy to have a bit of bare dirt in the side of their pen to scratch at on (thawed out) warm sunny afternoons, the general excitement as the snow line heads south across the road and approaches the orchard, and the sun sets behind the distant mountains not the hills to our immediate south, giving us hours more sunlight all of a sudden, but my husband accidentally took the memory card for the camera with him this week as he traveled for work. So I'll just have to be sure to take lots of photos this weekend as not only is he back home today but he's off for the entire weekend!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

New Garden Planning - the side 'yard'

In the presence of more energy aka more time to do things these days, with the house back to the good-enough stage after my pregnancy-induced lack of cleaning this past fall, and in the absence of any grabbing-my-attention-yarn laying around, I've been working on something equally as easily picked up and put down as a batch of knitting - garden planning! Or rather, NEW garden planning! That's right, I've been sketching up plans for the new side garden I've been thinking about for about a year now. Mostly just coming up with ways of planting and orienting things to maximize the space available, but also spending some time thinking about chicken coop designs and greenhouse/potting shed ideas. If you are on pinterest and want to check out my garden inspiration board, click on over here, and to check out some greenhouse/compost bin/homesteady pins, click on over here :)

I'm sure I'll pick up some great yarn soon, as a couple of my plans for decorating Little M's big girl room involve some knitting & crocheting, but in the meantime, whenever I've got a spare couple minutes in the evenings, I've been picking up my plans and sketching out better details about where the raspberries will go, how we'll separate the chickens from the garden, and all those fun details.

Of course, with this baby coming this summer, I don't really plan to do much in the way of implementing this new garden area, after all, this will at least triple our garden space, and moving the chickens over to there will require either some serious shed moving or a whole new coop. These are more long term, 5 year plans. But I'm sure we'll put something in the ground there this year, even if it's just some extra raspberry plants when we thin out our current patch this spring, throwing up some junky fencing around it, and putting a pile of pig & chicken manure over there when we clean out Pat's old pen & the chicken coop this spring.

The really nice thing about taking my time on the evolution of our property plan is that over time we learn how we use the property, and what our plans are longer term for it. I can only imagine how much re-doing we would end up doing down the road if we had of implemented all of our plans after the first year of living here! This way we have goals, but can live with them in theory for a couple years and be comfortable with how well they will work for us before we put them into practice!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Weekend in Pictures

This weekend I finally figured out what setting had been changed on our DSLR camera months & months ago that made my manual setting pictures come out really consistently crappy. Not sure at all why it took me so long, likely because I rarely have time to just sit down and play around with the camera, usually when I have it in my hands its because I'm trying to take a picture... Regardless, I was quite satisfied with myself, and I think I even got a few nice shots after I cleaned off the smudged lens!

Our feet of snow is finally starting to melt away, disappearing really rapidly from the steep south facing hills north of the house. Normally this time of the year, when those hills brown up very quickly after snowfalls due to the increased sun exposure we're starting to get, I am very disappointed and just yearn for more white-covered days. This year, with the significant dumps we got in December that kept everything white for almost 2 months, I'm quite satisfied with our winter, and so I'm yearning for the snow to melt & the growing season to be upon us!

The main thing I accomplished this weekend was finishing clearing out the spare room, which used to serve as our guest bedroom/office, and which will soon become Little M's big girl room. She requested it be painted in purple, her favorite color, so we carefully selected a purple that would match the other colors in the house. We ended up with a light purple with hints of grey in it. Quite pretty, and rather reminds me of the color I had my room painted growing up! Yesterday I got all of the walls painted, and hopefully this afternoon I'll be able to do any touchups that are needed. We likely won't finish converting it to her big girl room until around when the baby is due, and so have kept the spare bed in the center of the room in the meantime, although basically everything else that was once stored in that room (including 2 desks!), is now elsewhere in the house or up into the attic of the garage for storage (or thrown out!). I've got lots of ideas for DIY decorations and such for her big girl room, although we'll see how many of my ideas come to fruition over the next few months as I get a larger & larger belly!

Monday, February 4, 2013

On learning to set weekly goals

I like having goals. And I like meeting them even more. So that means having the ability to set reasonable yearly goals. I've been doing pretty good at that the past few years. Last year, with my household notebook I was even better, and I think I did a good job at setting reasonable monthly goals that were in line with my yearly goals. Again with the help of my household notebook, I was really good last year about setting daily to-do tasks that were within reason. The thing I wasn't very good at was setting weekly goals that would get me to meeting my monthly goals, and taking daily to-do's from those weekly goals.

I still managed to make most of my monthly goals, and I still think my daily to-do's were ok, but I think I could have been better about meeting & exceeding my monthly goals, or accomplishing more ambitious monthly goals, or just being more effective in my daily tasks - getting the most important things done, if I had weekly goals to focus on & help me along to my monthly goals.

This year I am determined to make progress to improve my weekly goal-setting abilities. Part of what it means for me, especially in this season of my life where I am growing a new baby, preparing for said new baby to arrive, and wrangling a 3 year old, is breaking things down into discrete chunks of work that can be done in around 10-15 minutes per task. Because seriously, about the only times that I get longer than that to work on things is when Little M is napping, and that is about the only time I get to have any of my down time, so I don't need to be filling that precious time up with to-do things!

So on my list of weekly goals for this week is making a detailed list of everything I want to have in Little M's big girl room & what steps are involved in those items. Like that? See, no difficult tasks, just planning/brainstorming tasks! So yesterday I sat down and started that brainstorming process. I didn't have too long, so I just jotted down what I'd been thinking of including in her room. Next I'll likely make a more detailed list of what we have on hand of those things, what needs to be made, and what might need to be purchased to round out the items.

The one thing I think I still need to work out better is each week going ahead and not just putting down my weekly goal, but ahead of time, like when I make my weekly goal list, sitting down and splitting that weekly goal up into daily tasks that take about 10-15 minutes. I've noticed that when I have items on my weekly goal list that are basically just one task that takes about 10-15 minutes, those items are much more likely to get finished. But when I have items that need to be split into 2 or more daily tasks to be only 10-15 minute tasks, its not as common for me to get partly done as I would expect. For example, last week one of my goals was to '(finally) finish M's play kitchen'. I didn't break that down into all the little steps that I knew I could fit into my days - cutting the doors, cutting the oven shelf, cutting the back down, sanding the pieces, attaching the doors, screwing on the shelf & back, etc. And so while I definitely had time to fit at least a couple of those items into my week, because when I looked at my weekly list and saw 'finish play kitchen' and felt overwhelmed at all the little things that the play kitchen still needed, I didn't get anything more done on it.

I think this is going to require a bit of re-working the sheet in my notebook where I write down my weekly goals, to fit both the 10ish weekly goals as well as their broken down small task components, but that is ok - after all, practice makes perfect, right! I also think that I'll have to have some sort of rough guidelines on number of sub-tasks to my weekly goals. For my daily task list, I only have room on my sheet for 10 items. For my monthly goals list I try to only write down 6 main items to accomplish. For my weekly goals I try to have only 10 goals. But I think more that that, for the weekly items I need to make sure that if I have 10 goals, each can really only have 1-3 sub-tasks. Otherwise I need to have fewer weekly goals!

In the past few month of setting weekly goals, typically I've had about half of my weekly goals be items that really don't have a sub-task - like 'take the ashes out from the wood stove', or 'go to dentist appointment', so it has worked out ok for the most part, but if I had a bunch of items like last week's play kitchen one, where there might have actually been over 10 sub tasks, actually accomplishing all of my weekly goals would be doomed from the get-go! Realistically, starting & finishing M's play kitchen was a monthly goal, but because after I got it functional for her birthday that first week in January, I didn't work on it again until I realized in the last week that I had listed it as a monthly goal, I made it my weekly goal to finish it, without really looking at what all was involved in that as a goal.

The nice thing about setting weekly goals, (apart from the obvious help that give me in getting to my monthly goals), is that knowing what the most important things are in a week really helps me each week & each day in focusing on what are the important things for me to get done. Which really is only important because then it lets me let go of the things that aren't important for me to get done, so I don't rush around 'doing' all of the time, and can fully enjoy this 3 year old, only child, stage that I'm in right now with Little M!
I think that's one of the biggest benefits I started to see last year of having my to do lists. Once I had my 10 items on my to do list nearly done, or well on their way, I didn't feel guilty, or rushed, spending quality time with Little M. In the past when I had a miles-long to do list, which I was always quite good at generating before I started keeping my daily list to 10 items long, I would never feel good about how much I was doing, so I could never really enjoy my down time, whatever my down time happened to look like. Now, when I can see that I'm doing just great on my 10 items, I find it easier to truly relax & enjoy myself.

I know that not everyone is like me, a person who enjoys checking things off a list, and that's totally OK! But for me, as a person who feels most content when I've set goals and clearly completed them, having concrete goals & clear steps to get me to them is a really great way to feel satisfied and content with certain parts of my life and what I've accomplished. There are other parts of my life that I really don't want or need to-do lists in to make me feel satisfied. For example, a lot of people have big lists of things to accomplish by the time they turn 30. I'm going to be turning 30 this coming fall, and honestly, although when I was in my early twenties I thought 30 was just so old, now that I'm almost there, I'm pretty satisfied. I don't feel old, I just feel good. I mean I look at my life, where I am right now, where I'll be at 30, and I just feel really content - I have a life out in the country, a great husband, a decent job that let's me focus on my family, an adorable and spirited 3 year old, and by the time I'm 30, if everything goes smoothly, I'll have a new baby to boot. Married with 2 kids at thirty? Sounds pretty happy to me!

As an aside, with this pregnancy, the baby hormones have been producing these amazing satisfied & content & happy feelings pretty regularly - which is pretty awesome for me, and you can be sure that I've been savoring them to the fullest extent possible when they hit! Definitely making me think about what I can do in my day-to-day life to make sure even post-pregnancy that I keep producing these feelings! (that's where I'm hoping having a great goal & to-do system worked out might come in handy!)
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