Sunday, February 27, 2022

Points north

This week was another busy one - a visit from our oldest nibling, more mitigation on the recent water issue, plus the usual round of work and family commitments crammed into four days - and we wrapped it up with a weekend overnight in Pennsylvania. This trip encompassed our youngest nibling’s first birthday party; a celebratory dinner with one of DP’s former students who’s just achieved a significant career milestone; and, since we were in the neighborhood, a peek at a possible candidate for Miss B’s college application list. (Yes, we’ve officially entered this phase of the parenting journey.)

By the time last night rolled around, I was glad that DP had insisted that we splurge and stay at a local inn, rather than a generic hotel room. After an extra-long sleep in a very comfortable bed, we were fed an amazing homemade breakfast made by someone other than me. And with all of our obligations completed, we had a flexible Sunday schedule and continued the indulgence with a stop in Gettysburg on the way home to browse in some shops we don’t get to often - including the only Polish pottery supplier in this part of the country. I took the opportunity to pick up a few new pieces to level up breakfast at home.

So - not much cooking this weekend, but plenty of good eating and good company, a change of scene and a bit of rest. I'm grateful to be able to say so.

Sunday, February 20, 2022

3-day weekend

The third Monday in February is a public holiday in the US - Presidents’ Day. I can’t say I commemorate this in any meaningful way, other than this year by being even more grateful than usual to get an extra day off. Last week felt like it went on about twice as long as normal, thanks to a confluence of professional and household events that started way too early on Tuesday morning with discovering puddles in the basement, and finished late Friday with a day that felt like a real-life game of Tetris, trying to slot repeated visits from various repair personnel in with work-related Zoom calls, and vice versa. The time in between involved 48 hours of industrial drying equipment that invaded 2 out of 3 floors, sounded like a jet engine was parked in the kitchen, and required constant wearing of earplugs in order to function indoors. 

This disrupted my sleep patterns just a bit, and I was awake before 6 on Saturday morning, even though I didn’t need to be. This was an improvement over the previous 2 mornings - not only because I had slept past 4, but also because it was quiet. Even with a busy Saturday of offline and online chores in prospect, I thoroughly enjoyed a peaceful breakfast - and the ability to move about freely in my own kitchen again. 

I celebrated by making a little something special - a batch of biscuit croissants. I made up a batch of 2-Ingredient Biscuits; rolled the dough out flat; sliced into 8 triangles; filled half with chocolate chunks (for Miss B) and half with cinnamon sugar (for me); rolled them up like croissants; and baked them on a parchment-lined tray at 400F/200C for 15 minutes. I had 2 of the cinnamon ones for breakfast with some cranberry-apple butter.

No alarm tomorrow morning either - hurrah! Hope that wherever you are, you're getting some rest and relaxation too.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Weekend schedules

Do you have a schedule for your weekend? Following on from last week’s post, I’ve been thinking more about time blocks and how useful they are - but also how important it is to not fill up all those blocks with chores. It’s just as important to set aside a few for fun things, or to do absolutely nothing. 

My mother had a tendency to fill her days with chores from morning until night, and to try to combat this environmental conditioning, my sisters and I have been encouraging one another to follow the practice laid down by one of our aunts for herself post-retirement - chores in the morning, fun in the afternoon. 

I can’t say that I’m fully succeeding at implementing this system for my weekends, especially as I regularly push the envelope by doing things like not eating lunch until 2pm. But I think it is making me more mindful about how I use my time. This includes paying attention to how long things actually take; I have a tendency not to notice that, and trying to estimate that more accurately ahead of time is helping me to better manage my own expectations of what’s feasible in a morning. And maybe also helping me to normalize that an hour or two on the couch with a book or a movie is a perfectly reasonable way to spend a weekend afternoon. Even if this weekend I instead gave chunks of my afternoons to an Instant Pot beef stew (very) loosely based on this recipe, and a longstanding family Valentine's Day tradition. It's all about progress, right?  

Sunday, February 6, 2022

15 minutes

My corner of northern Virginia has 15 more minutes of daylight today than we did last Sunday - a useful reminder of the impact that a seemingly small chunk of time can have. Particularly useful at a time of year when it’s hard to muster up the energy or motivation to do much of anything at all, and yet the list of things that needs to get done never seems to get any shorter. To say nothing of the list of things I’d like to make some time for as well, and the constant tug of war between those two categories. 

Allocating small chunks of time - 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 25 minutes, depending on the task at hand and the budget of daily time available - has been for many years the best strategy I have found to get pretty much anything done that needs doing, or that I want to be doing. It’s not an exaggeration to say that it’s the key to everything I’ve accomplished, certainly since I became a parent. 

I remembered another two benefits of this method this weekend: 

1. If you’re contemplating tackling a project that’s daunting in scope or duration, allocating a small, regular chunk of time to focus on it will enable you to deal with it in less-terrifying and more-manageable chunks, with gaps in between to mull your next steps. 

2. Even a 15-minute block of time is enough to get you well on the way to having some cake.

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