How I make time to create, or at least try

On the blog of SharonB she had a post that discussed some of the tricks she uses to be productive in her work as a crazy quilter. So I thought I’d consider sharing some of the tricks I use. Plus I also want to discuss some of my views in relationship to her earlier exchange about being an artist and how the decorative arts have been regarded as less important. But that will be tomorrow’s topic. Here I discuss some of the ways I get things done.

First off, one of the things I’ve realized is that I can’t sit and just work with my hands and have nothing else going on. My mind is too busy, and too many of the crafts I enjoy have aspects where they only occupy part of my attention. Now, I should emphasize that this is part of their attraction, as well, in that I can be listening to something and yet also have my hands busy making something. So going off by myself in the way that she mentions, setting it apart with a workspace and work time, is a little less attractive to me. My hobbies are work, but they are pleasurable work that I choose to do, not because this is how I pay the bills. Therefore, setting aside a time and place to do them in that way would never work for me.

This doesn’t mean that setting a time for it is not a good idea. But I work it out in other ways. For example, one of the aspects of these crafts that I enjoy is the social aspect of connecting with other people who like the same things. Plus, meeting with people gives a certain amount of accountability. Therefore I have set up “appointments” at lunchtime when I’m at work or on a Saturday at home, when I meet with other people who have the same interests as I, and we sit together and work on whatever is in progress. They are not required appointments, but I am committed to them. Since I have such a variety of textile hobbies, and some of them get less attention at times, this is one of the mechanisms I use to ensure that I continue to make progress even on the things that are not my top focus right now. As in, my cross-stitch is one of those that is lower on the totem pole at this time, so the lunch meeting of other stitchers is the only time of the week when I work on my piece. But I continue to make slow, steady progress as a result. It won’t be done quickly, but then I don’t require quickly, and it will eventually be done.

Now this setting up of appointments doesn’t always work. Some things don’t travel well, so these must be done at home, but I do have my craft Saturday where I invite people to my house once a month to work on whatever is in progress. Same idea, different venue, and it certainly helps. And those things that do travel well — well, I try to always have something small in my purse or big bag that I can work on.

But it doesn’t completely fix the problem. And there is a problem. Some of my work is complex enough or new enough to require my full attention and a certain amount of uninterrupted time, and therefore cannot be done with serious distractions present. Therefore this work has been set aside and I haven’t returned to it in months. And I don’t like this.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t actually work on things at home. My knitting has been a primary focus for a while now, and I do work on it at home, as well as my spinning. But the quilting and sewing have been somewhat in the back seat. And the spinning has also been erratic, not consistent. And as mentioned above, the cross-stitch is only during that one hour a week.

Somehow I need to set aside an appointment time with myself here at home to work on these things that have been set aside so I can make progress there too. My dream is actually to take some time off from work just to stay home and work on these things. But even that dream has its limitations, and consistent work, even done in small increments, is far better than one big burst. (Which doesn’t mean I won’t figure out a way to have a few days off like that, but it won’t happen soon, and I’m not planning on waiting for it.)

I do love my hobbies — that’s part of a later post — and I respect myself as someone who creates things (although I don’t really think of myself primarily as an artist), so they are important enough for me to figure out a way to do this. I’m just not sure how to achieve it yet.

Day in the life

I ran into an interesting idea today — I’m going to see if I can actually do it myself. One of the blogs I read, admittedly somewhat erratically, had the idea of a photo-essay of one’s day, hour by hour. I think that I may try this, and even if I don’t share it online, I will probably do it in a scrapbook. One of the things I firmly believe in doing scrapbooking is that one doesn’t want to remember just the big events and special days of your life, but also the everyday, normal times as well. If I like what I end up with, I may make this a regular event.

Now, to be sure my batteries are good!

Checklist

I’m a creature of lists, at times. Part of it has to do with the detail-oriented nature of a cataloguer, another part just has to do with my organizational inclinations. (Of course, these are both intertwined, but don’t ask me which came first — the chicken or the egg?)

Today, I’ve had my Christmas list on my mind. My family buys pretty individually, and I’ve actually had pretty good luck this year, not only with getting them good stuff that they want, but also with getting ideas for those who aren’t giving me a list! I just hope those ideas work!

Let me see: Mom, Dad, Sister, BIL, Nephew 2 & 3, Brother, Niece 2 all done. That just leaves Nephew 1, SIL, and Niece 1. I have a definite idea for SIL, and probably gift certificates to Borders or suchlike for Nephew and Niece 1. They are getting more and more difficult to buy for.

The most important thing is getting them all done in plenty of time to feel relaxed for the holiday season. I hate feeling rushed!

Whoops — almost forgot! Closest friend from college; not a required gift, but sometimes I get an inspiration, and I want to get one this year if the price is right.

Canning the apple butter

This turned out to be so easy! All I had to use was the crockpot. I made two batches, but I think the first one was too tart. Anyway, just so I can remember, here are the two varieties of recipe I used; we’ll see which one Mom likes better.

Mix of tart apples like Granny Smith, Jonathons, etc.

Peel and slice apples to fill the crockpot (5 qt. variety)
Put in 2 c. apple cider, 1/2 c. vinegar, 1 1/2 c. sugar, 2 t. cinnamon, 1 t. ginger, allspice, cloves, nutmeg; cook until apples are soft. Puree with blender (handheld or regular type). Continue to cook until deep brown and most liquid is evaporated, so that a spoonful of the apple butter does not fall out of the spoon.

Like I said, this batch was too tart, plus I had problems getting rid of enough liquid.

Second batch: I filled up the crockpot even more densely, did 1 c. apple cider, 1/2 c. vinegar, 1 1/2 c. sugar, 2 t. cinnamon, 1 t. ginger, allspice, cloves, nutmeg. It was definitely a bit sweeter, but I think I could still cut back on the apple cider and vinegar — maybe even half that? and possibly less sugar as well as a result — since I still had some problems getting rid of enough liquid. But the proportion of sour to sweet was better in this batch.

I will await a verdict after Christmas, since this is part of Mom’s present. But early information is good, since Sister and BIL tried and liked it. I’ll have to check and see what Nephew1 thought, since he is as much of an apple butter addict as Mom is.

Other things to remember:
1) definitely borrow the combined peeler/slicer from neighbor again.
2) for better use of peeler/slicer, only get medium-sized apples and but them up quickly, before they soften.
3) a whole half-bushel was just about right for doing two batches, with some left over. Next year make some apple pie filling with the rest and can it, once you’ve got the whole right size of apple thing down as well as right kind of canner.

Koigu socks progress


I’ve been making amazingly steady progress on my second sock, so much so that I’ve been surprised. Even this picture is now out of date, as the heel has turned, and I’m worked away on the foot. I’m not sure what has me so inspired, but it’s pretty clear that steady work has a benefit. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to match those people who churn out socks without pause, but I do know that I’d like to make myself quite a few more for winter AND summer wear, as well as start making some for family, and maybe even some friends. I’ve already promised one to my sister.

Horror of cold

I’ve come to realize that in my attempts to save money by lowering heating costs that I am fighting something of a losing battle. Why? Because I HATE COLD. To be more precise, I hate being cold. I’m okay with it being cold outside, as long as I am warm. But to save money on my gas bill, I have to lower the temp inside to somewhere in the low 60’s F, and I have found that I just can’t do it. If my fingers are cold, then I don’t function well. If my toes are cold, then I don’t function well. If my ears are cold, I am an unhappy woman. And these are the hardest parts to keep warm. Sweaters, long johns, sweats, all these work great for the rest of the body, but the extremities? Not so good.

Now part of my problem has to do with my house. The living room and kitchen have a connected cathedral ceiling, which of course does Not Help when it comes to warming ME. Running the fans helps a little, but it’s hard to tell how much. I end up having to turn up the heat just to warm me up to a functional level. It’s most noticeable when I’m teleworking, therefore at home for long periods of time stuck in front of a computer, having to type. My fingers need to be warm.

I wonder if fingerless gloves would help? I may have to try it.

The only thing I can figure to do is a small electric heater, focused directly on me, that allows the general temperature to be lower, thus using less overall energy. I wonder if that will really work? The only true test is to do it, then watch my gas bill.

All part of my continuing efforts to use less energy. I do believe in leaving only a light footprint upon the earth, but not at the cost of my health.

After the day

Having celebrated Thanksgiving, now I return to real life — except it doesn’t feel like real life yet. When one’s patterns and routines are out of their usual paths, nothing feels normal. This is not necessarily a bad thing — it’s a prime time to try new things, incorporate new thoughts or habits, and get some things done — but it needs to resettle quickly.

I guess I’m feeling particularly out of synch right now because I’ve been out of town, and yet now am not celebrating the holiday with my family. Usually this would be another lazy day, but instead I’m working. And truthfully, I want to be working. I don’t really want to be out in Black Friday.

Here’s to another out of synch weekend, with the prospect of returning to pattern next week. By this time on next Friday, I’ll be feeling amazingly normal, I have no doubt.

My eyes are bigger than …

In this case, it’s my time. There are always so many things to do — and today I have a holiday, so I’m trying to get some of them done. I’ve learned to look at my list and pick a select few for days like this, otherwise I’m terribly disappointed when I don’t get them all done. And sometimes I do get a lot done, but it’s not what is on the list.

So today, what is my list? Do another layer of joint compound on a drywall patch, remove caulking from shower and replace (move stuff to another shower to use in the meantime), do laundry, move in new-made piece of furniture (already done!), can apple butter, and do general cleaning, as much as possible, since I have guests tomorrow. Specifically that will include vacuuming in the living room (mostly done) and cleaning the front bathroom.

I think the apple butter may wait until tomorrow. It’s my first attempt at making and canning apple butter, so I want to make sure it goes right.

And now, to start on the laundry. As soon as it is sorted and the first load started, I’ll do the drywall patch. After that, it may be time for a break. This is a holiday, after all.

I’ll tell you about the furniture tomorrow. It is my very first attempt at woodworking of any sort, and I’m rather proud of it.

Well, I didn’t make it in time

yesterday. Wednesdays are always busy days for me, and since I don’t really like doing this at work, that meant no time to get to the computer and write something for the blog. So this is my Wednesday apology (at work, no less!), and tonight I will write something good for Thursday.

Intro to projects 34

So, let’s backtrack and actually include a picture or two, now that I have a digital camera.

#34 is my next pair of socks, actually made with lovely Koigu yarn, which is 100% merino wool. I started out playing with these, actually doing them on US000, which is 1.75 mm (or maybe US00, can’t remember for sure). Since the yarn label recommends US3/3.25 mm, you can guess that I started having some problems eventually.

They didn’t, interestingly enough, appear quickly.

I had done the entire ribbing on the leg and finished the turning of the heel that I was testing out (Balbriggan heel as described in Folk socks; don’t think I really like that style so much, but then that is the point of the test), started on the foot — and realized the tension was way too tight. I was feeling the tension in my hand muscles, and dropping stitches, and just feeling that the fabric was too taught in general.

I undid it all.

I had to wash at least some of the yarn, in order to relax some of the tight kinks. I started again, this time using US0/2.0 mm size needles. Since even this is smaller than what the yarn label recommends, I’m still getting a fairly tight weave, but that is what I want for these socks. And having moved up so much, it’s moving along quite quickly. I’m already close to finishing this first sock. Hopefully the next one will happen just as fast, since I’ve already got much next sock yarn to try. I’m not sure what heel I’ll use next, but I’m going to try the star toe on this pair.

Here’s what it looked like once I restarted the sock.

Well, I’ll show you that when blogger decides to cooperate.

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