Friday, February 27, 2015

Filling in the Gaps


After only four days, I can honestly say that my new weekly and daily goal sheets have saved me. I've written more in the past week than I have in the last two or three, plus worked on editing and research. I've kept up with my outside obligations and was able to add in a couple more. I pulled off one small birthday party, and I'm about to finish prepping for a larger one. And I've managed to blog twice in one week and had time to read to the kids last night (for the first night in awhile)!

The trick for me has been the list. I always work better with a list, and I know this. From daily chores to grocery shopping to packing for a trip--lists save me. I operate well with them. I can add to them as I remember items. I can check completed items off the list. I can adapt them to just about every need.

And the trick with using the list has been finding ways to fill in gaps that I was wasting. Instead of checking email for the umpteenth time, I did the dishes. Instead of languishing on Facebook, I wrote my daily words. Yesterday, I had 50 minutes after completing volunteer work at school before I needed to pick up my son from preschool, and rather than going home where I might be tempted to waste the time on something unnecessary, I went to the library. I took my laptop, wrote the words I needed to do for the day, requested a book for research through I.L.L. and checked out a book that I had on hold. Three tasks, done done done, and all with just a little planning to make sure I'd packed up my laptop before I'd left early in the day. I even scheduled in lunch by having it with my daughter at school (okay, it wasn't the greatest lunch ever, but it was cheap, fast, and I got to spend time with my daughter, which made us both happy).

Other ways I've been able to fill in gaps:

I set the alarm for a bit earlier. That is how I'm writing this now, before the kids wake. As soon as I finish this, I'll write my daily words, then get them up and start our morning routines.

But not too early. If I'm too tired, everything is a chore and by evening, I'm a monster. I've learned this. So I have a set bedtime, too, that I try to make.

I keep in mind things I can do in twenty minutes or less. I can wash a load of dishes in 20 minutes, and it takes about that long for my son's favorite breakfast to cook. He gets a decent meal before school, I get an empty sink. Done and done.

I schedule both the BIG tasks and the small tasks on my daily list and try to double them up as I can. It only took me five minutes to run in to pick up the ink cartridges I'd left to be refilled, but it took putting it on my list in connection with another errand (swim lessons--during the trip home) to get it done after they'd sat for almost two weeks.

I'm eager to see if I can keep this going. It's been a heady week--and a busy week, but the busy isn't going to slow down anytime soon. What I'm hoping is that by using this system, by adding in both the things I HAVE to do along with the things I WANT to do, I won't get as frustrated watching my time dissolve and having little left to show for it but chores and running kids back and forth and wishing I'd done more. It is awesome to see my daily word counts adding up again. It is equally awesome to sit and watch a show while I crochet, because I have to sit down and crochet because "it's on the list."

Monday, February 23, 2015

It's a Brand New Day

Sunrise in SW Washington
"It's a brand new day
and the sun is high,
all the birds are singing
that you're gonna die.

How I hesitated
now I wonder why,
It's a brand new day--"

Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog has to be one of my favorite musicals. The chorus to "Brand New Day" has been especially apt for me lately.

I put off writing a challenging scene in my current work in progress for almost two months. Why? Because I had to kill of a character. Not just any character, but one of my main characters, who I've become rather fond of.

I've lost characters in stories before, and while death scenes are never easy for me to write, I've never killed a main character before. It was harder to do than I expect, because it needed to be both meaningful, shocking, and awful.

When I finally forced myself to write it out, I think I got close. Later drafts will hopefully fill in any missing pieces, but for now, I am content. It was, however, a rough day's work.

Finishing the scene also means that there is nothing stopping me from completing the novel. Except for, well, an actual ending. I don't have one completely imagined through. So this week will be 'outline the final half of the novel' week.

Which brings me to another way that "Brand New Day" is apt for me: I'm actually making daily plans. I've been working with a weekly list the past several months, but I'm finding that I have too much to do to leave it to such a loose structure. I actually need more definition to my days so the time doesn't waste away.

I'm continuing my weekly structure, first using the Goal Setting Worksheets from MoneySavingMom.com to make my weekly goals, but today I added a new daily sheet to keep me focused. I decided to go with the pocket version of the Daily Dockets from TheArtofSimple.net to plan out each day.

What I end up with is a sheet of weekly goals, the big goals that I want to accomplish and that will take more than one day to do so, and another sheet of two days worth of daily goals where I can then add things like chores and phone calls and things that I need to do on that day. I like that the pocket docket has a space for what's for dinner, because then I can think ahead to prepping for that, too, something that's been getting left out lately. I also like the pocket docket because I can fit two days on one side, fold it in half, and stick the weekly sheet in the middle to refer to as needed. I keep the sheets on top of my laptop so that I can refer to them often.

I'm hoping this system will help me keep up with everything I want to work on, plus the daily running of the household, and still leave me free for some play time. I'm actually scheduling play time, in the form of reading and crocheting, so that they aren't left out. I need my play time!

This week's goals are a bit heady, but I'm hopeful. I plan to edit five poems to submit (goal 1), outline the last half of my current WiP (goal 2), collate the research for my next story and begin the initial plot outline (goal 3), prep for my son's birthday party on Saturday (goal 4), finish two crochet projects (goal 5), and write one poem and two blog posts this week and 500 words each day (goal 6).

Most of those goals are going to be broken up into easier chunks each day. Today's list looks like this:
*write 500 words (done)
write 1 blog post (you're reading it)
*edit 2 poems
*address and mail invitations (I'm way behind on this, but just about everyone has been notified via Facebook--invites are addressed and will be mailed later today)
Complete 7 rows on crochet baby blanket
dishes (done)
laundry
*budget
vacuum

The daily docket recommends starring no more than five priority items (Most Important Things) to mark those items that must be done that day. I like this idea. It makes the list more approachable and gives me another layer of focus.

And now I'm off to check another couple of items off the list before preschool lets out. I have two poems to edit and some crocheting to do.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Frugal Friday: Halloween Edition!


Happy Halloween!

For Halloween this year, we kept it simple. Decorations around the house are from our Halloween box containing items I've collected over the years. The oldest item is a small pumpkin snow globe that my mom gave me in 1993. She got it at the gift shop at the hospital where she worked. I adore it.

The newest is the BOO bunting I crocheted a few years ago. I also added my two Partylite candle holders, the pumpkin house (above) and the witch's shoe. I use battery-operated votive candles in them since I cannot yet be trusted with real candles (I get busy and forget they are burning).

For costumes, Buggie decided to go as Maleficent It so happens that back in high school, I made a Maleficent costume. It's a little long on her, but otherwise works great. And I love that she's wearing something I made over 20 years ago and managed to hang on to for this long. The hat was missing, however, so I ordered one through Amazon and signed up for the free 30-day Prime membership to try it out and get free shipping.

The Boy opted to go as the Hulk, and thankfully he is still small enough to fit the rather inexpensive Hulk costume I picked up at Costco. It won't fit him long, but he loves it and will get his use out of it before he outgrows it.

For treats, we picked up fun Munchkin Halloween booster cards to hand out. We also picked up some mandarin oranges to decorate as pumpkins to hand out as well. I picked up a package of candy, but I'm not going to open it if I don't have to. I'd rather hand out cute cards and oranges--both of which were less expensive then the package of candy I got (and that'll I'll return if we don't use it).

For supper, we're going to pick up another Jack O'Lantern pizza to bake when we're finished walking around the neighborhood. I also have spiced cider to heat up to warm us.

Have a safe and happy Halloween!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Frugal Friday

The secret garden behind an abandoned house.

This week's frugal accomplishments:

Starting seeds for the gardens using soil left over from last year.

Storing the leftover ground coffee in jam jars rather than throwing out the last of it.

Kept the composting going throughout the week.

Several trips to the park with the kids to play.

Put together a couple of 'cookless' meals for the family since the oven is still not fix.

Borrowed my mom's oven for a couple of other meals.

Came home for meals during lunchbreak at work instead of eating out.

Carried my refillable water bottle around rather than buying drinks while out and about.

And I've forgot to add that over the last month, Buggie has taken her lunch to school each day.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Frugal Friday


Frugal accomplishments for this week:

Downloaded a free album through Amazon. It's a Gaelic music sampler, quite decent. I've enjoyed listening to it.

I had to drive unexpectedly into town, so I grabbed a couple of shopping lists I had ready to go and got a few errands done at the same time. I try not to go into town for just one reason if I can help it.

Took the boy on a long walk to his favorite green space to run around.

Took the kids to see a movie at the theater where I work, as we get free admission. We'd seen it before, but it was fun to watch again on the big screen.

The big one, however, has been starting my composting again. I've already made a couple trips to it this week and everything that goes in it is less waste in the garbage can. I'm already noticing the difference, especially when I sliced up a watermelon early in the week.

Came home on my lunch break during work. I'm continuing to cut back on our eating out, including when I'm at work and have a lunch break. I'm packing snacks to work, too, so I'm not tempted to buy anything there (especially as it is all candy).

Not a massively huge list, but I'm pleased with my continued awareness. It's held me back from making purchases I'd have made otherwise and from eating out when it really was unnecessary to do so. And that, I think, is a victory!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Frugal Friday


Not nearly as many these past couple of weeks as I'd like there to be. I'm finding that going without an oven has had a serious impact on our home-cooking. I'm hoping we'll have to fixed soon!

Frugal Accomplishments:

Rather than eat out during our beach trip over Spring Break, we brought food and prepared meals in the little kitchen of the condo we rented. So much easier!

Also on Spring Break, we only went into town once so the kids could ride the carousel. The rest of the trip was spent in the pool or on the beach or in the condo watching DVDs or doing crafts we brought with us from home.

I crocheted another market bag using a different pattern. I hope to post a review this weekend.

The kids and I went to the park several times in the last couple of weeks to play.

I checked out a few books from the library to read, one for me and one for me to read to the kids.

We went to a movie but went for a matinee show and bought no concessions while we were there. (This was not, of course, at the theater where I work, but we really wanted to see the movie!)

We got another free game from X-box Live Arcade.

I made a new CD of music for our drive to the beach. I bought a few new songs for it, but bought the songs individually rather than buying an entire CD we wouldn't listen to all the way through. I love being able to do that!

I needed a weekly planner, but instead of buying a new one, I'm using an outdated one and just crossing off the wrong dates and filling in the correct one.

One of my work shirts was bleach-splattered, but rather than get rid of it, I used bleach to tie-dye it. I like it even more now.

I dug out the old telescope my husband has had for years and years and set it up on the dining table to look out the front window at the full moon. It isn't powerful, but it was free, easy to use, and the kids loved it!

And that's about it. It's a longer list than I thought it would be!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Frugal Friday

Hand-embroidered handkerchiefs found at our local antique market.
I'm a day late with my weekly frugal accomplishment, but then again, last week I didn't get around to it at all. Because last week was not a good frugal week for us, as we had an unexpected death in the family that necessitated an emergency flight to Texas and that was far from cheap. And then with one parent gone and the other working most of the time, there was lots of quick food from drive-thrus as our quick meals at home were curtail by a busted oven. I tried to keep it from getting too out-of-control and we did fairly well, but still, not very frugal.

This week was better, partly because I'm trying to be better about working around our busted oven.

This week's frugal accomplishments:

Sourcing a part to fix the oven rather than buying a new oven (I love my oven!).

Shopped out local antique market for a birthday gift for a friend and scored a few new hand-embroidered handkerchiefs for under $5.00. I was down to one (I tend to give them away, so I need to stock up again).

Cooked a few meals using the stove top and the microwave.

Buggie needed a shirt for school and we found one in a local secondhand shop.

I went to Michael's for a few craft items and found most of them on sale AND used a 20% off the entire purchase coupon AND used what was left on a Christmas gift card.

I purchased a couple of used books and a couple of new books on sale and used a gift card to do so. Two of the books were through our local independent bookstore.

I put together a crafty pack out of items we had at home for the kids to use for Spring Break.

I taught Buggie how to play Battleship Command: Pirates of the Caribbean, a game we've had for years and only played once. She beat me. Twice.

And that's it! I'm hoping we can get the oven working next week, because one of the books I got has recipes I'm dying to try.