Monday, October 6, 2014

crochet: a little birdie

Just a quickie {practically wordless post} to share my new little friend.
I might have gotten a smidge carried away with his photo shoot, 
but how could you not?
 Oh, and maybe 'he' is a 'she' with that cute little flower on her backside.  It's like a little birdie tattoo.
I had so much fun hooking up this sweetie.
And I see many more on my hook in time for Christmas {at least, that's the plan anyway!}.  
You can get the pattern from Lucy at Attic24.

weekly planning

Sunday is planning day around here.  This is a recent discovery I made (I love that I am still learning new things all the time): life goes a lot smoother when you do a little pre-planning.
Yesterday while I was doing my Sunday planning bit, I snapped some photos to share with you today in hopes that maybe some of what I do may help your life go a little smoother, too.

We lead crazy, busy lives.  And the more I talk with other families, the more I know we are not alone.  Kids, school, sports, jobs, home, family, friends, church, community--sometimes it feels as though you're going in a thousand directions in a single day.  Recently I had a little breakdown, that turned into a 'breakthrough.'  It was grocery shopping day.  I had just guiltily dumped out enough food to feed a small village because it had spoiled before we had a chance to eat it.  I could have cried.  I was angry with myself for being so wasteful, resentful that our crazy schedule prevents me from making good wholesome meals for our family, and discouraged that I was about to head back to the grocery store to do it all over again.  This week I was determined to do it right and only buy what we were actually going to eat.  But the problem was, I don't always have enough time to cook a full blown meal between coming home from work and zipping out the door to sports or some other obligation.  I needed to figure out our schedule, in order to plan meals, in order to make the grocery list.  Simple, right?  And so began Sunday Planning Day--and I love it!

What I use:

* a large desk blotter calendar

*iCal calendar app on my computer and iPad

*whiteboard calendar

* recipe book and menu planner

*Wegman's shopping list app

What I do:

I gather all of the above items and sit down at the kitchen table (icy cold beverage in a green mason jar optional).

I begin by updating our family calendar (desk blotter calendar) with all of that week's events from the calendar feeds on my iPad.  This jumbo calendar hangs on the back of our kitchen door where everyone can see it.  Each child has his own color to make it easy to see who's what and to avoid having to write the person's names with the times and events.

Next, I update the schedule board for the week.
This is a magnetic white board.  I used magnetic label strips to create lots of labels for things like homework, dinner, hockey, shower, bed, etc: the stuff we do everyday.  Again, each child has his own color and section of the calendar.  This time instead of writing the event start times, I put the time we have to leave to get to the event.  This is a huge help!  Now everyone knows what time we need to be out the door, and can plan to be ready on time.  We can also see how much time is available between events so everyone knows how much time they have to cook dinner (me), do homework or play video games (the boys).

Then, since I know how much time I have to prep/cook meals, I can start planning the week's menu.
Last spring I started the huge task of creating a recipe binder of our go-to meals (see photo above).  I hope to get further along in that so I can do a separate blog post on it soon (but gosh, there's only so many hours in the day!)  Anyway, I look through the binder (and on my Pinterest 
i♥ F O O D boards), take requests from the boys, and keep in mind the amount of time I have to cook.  Then I start plugging meals into the week.  On my days off, I try to make that night's meal plus one other.  Lately it's been going a bit like this:

Sunday: varies between a big mid-day meal, something simple and quick, or take out, depending on the hockey schedule.
Monday: something that I can make during the day and leave simmering or reheat after hockey.
Tuesday: soup or stew, or something I can make on Monday and tastes good reheated.
Wednesday: crock pot night
Thursday: a more involved meal since I am home to prep/cook and don't have to rush out the door at night.
Friday: usually take out, but also leftovers if we have lots in the fridge from the week.
Saturday: fish night.  I like to have fish once a week and there's a great fish market near my son's guitar lesson studio so we can pick it up fresh on Saturday after his lesson.

I pull the recipe cards from the binder, or print the recipes from the internet.  As I go through each recipe for the week, I check the pantry for any ingredients I need and make my list in the Wegman's app.  I love this app!  I used to walk aimlessly around the grocery store trying to come up with meal ideas while shopping, adding things to my cart just because it was a regular item that I  "always" buy, or because "I'm not sure, but I think we're running low" or because "hmmm, that looks pretty good."  $200 and 1 hour later, I would wheel my overflowing grocery cart out to the car.  With this app and a menu plan, I can get in and out of the store in about 30 minutes and for sometimes more than half the cost!  I'm only buying what I need for that week's meals, not impulse buying or over buying stuff I forgot I had already bought.

Sunday planning has changed our lives in so many ways:
*We all know exactly what we've got going on, where we need to be and when we need to leave to get there.
*Expectations for free-time are clear: when you have it and how much you have.
*The boys know how focussed they have to be to get homework done quickly, or if there's time to be more relaxed.
*We all feel more in control of our schedule instead of feeling like our schedule is in control of us.
*Our grocery bill is way smaller, as is our eating out bill.
*We are wasting little to no food because I'm only buying what we need, and we're actually eating it instead of eating take-out due to poor planning.
*I no longer drive home from work with the stress of "oh shoot, I forgot to take something out of the freezer for dinner!"
*I no longer ask myself at 4 in the afternoon, "what the heck are we going to have for dinner tonight?"
*I look forward to grocery shopping (true story).

The hour or so that it takes me to complete the Sunday planning is saving me many, many hours during the week, plus my sanity--totally worth it!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

what's on my hook: mandalas ( and other stuff )

These early fall days have been filled with many crochet projects.  
Something about the cooler nights, the crisper air, and the hectic schedule makes me want to get out my hooks and yarn.  Or maybe it's just the hours of waiting in hockey rinks that comes from our jam-packed schedule of games and practices.
this ongoing project
Crochet relaxes me.  It makes me feel creative when there doesn't seem to be time.  It's the perfect take-along craft, and I get the gratification that I am producing something.
Lately I've been waking early to crochet, especially on the days I go into work.  I'm finding it's a happy way to start my day: productive and relaxing.  And if I keep it up I'll have hand-made gifts for giving this holiday season.

Last week I was inspired to do a little decorating in our bedroom.  Maybe it was the change of seasons, or just being plain sick of staring at bare walls.  Some hoops filled with a mix of pattern papers (yes! you can put thin pretty papers in embroidery hoops) and fabrics, layered with some vintage doilies, and finished off with a crocheted mandala made the perfect little cluster to dress up our wall.
You can find the mandala pattern here.  I followed the pattern until Step 8 (round 7), then just kind of made the rest up as I went to fit my hoop (which is 7").
I'm kind of in love with mandalas right now.  You can check out more on my mandala board on Pinterest

C R O C H E T♥ {mandalas}

So what's been on your hook lately?  Share it in the comments; I'd love to see!