Structure, Organization, and Working From Home…

Somehow, I doubt I’m the only one who would say that as a woman who works from home, time management is an issue. A major issue. Whether your work is home-making, raising your children, or managing a home-based business (or perhaps all 3?) – I think we are all at risk of falling into time-wasting patterns every now and then. You with me?

As I mentioned in THIS POST last week, my priorities in general have recently fallen under some (self-imposed) intense scrutiny, and I have to say– it’s been such a good exercise to set aside a few moments to take stock of what was filling my days…and perhaps more importantly, what wasn’t.

First of all, I made a list of things I typically do in a weeks time: chores, work, social outings, etc.. Then I made a list of things I would like to be doing in a weeks time: things that I have a desire for, and are high up on my theoretical priority list, but that my time-wasting habits tended to squeeze out of the schedule each day. – Here are some of the questions I asked myself:
What are truly my priorities?
In what order would I rank those priorities?
What is in my life that has no lasting value?
What are things in my life (or that I want to add to my life) of eternal import?
What things in my schedule are serving others?
What do I do that is selfish (which can be nixed without great loss) vs. self-nourishing (important to keep)?

Even if you don’t need a complete overhaul of how you spend your days, I’d highly recommend taking the time to compile these lists for yourself.-

So after the lists were made, the task became how to merge the two: what to get rid of, in order to free up more time in my allotted 24 hours.

I firmly believe that we will make time in our lives for what we truly desire to be a part our lives.

When we say we’re too busy, it’s just because we don’t want the alternative badly enough. Jenni echoed these thoughts well HERE.– So my original knee-jerk reaction was to make a very restrictive minute-by-minute schedule for each day of the week. But my life is just not predictable like that. Each day, and each week looks a little different for me.- Although I may enjoy the thought of that much structure, I certainly don’t thrive under it. In fact I’m likely to end up depressed and with a whopping case of the “guilties”. But I do need (and yes, even like) good structural boundaries in my life, and I think now I have arrived at a happy medium. For those of you who like the nitty-gritty details, read on…

I’ve made myself a schedule template for each day that I print out, along with a master list of daily focuses. – For example:

My morning routine includes waking at an early hour, exercising, posting for the day, answering e-mail, scheduling social media, and checking Facebook for messages ONLY (no timeline perusing). Then I have breakfast with my hubby before he leaves. Once he does, I clean up the kitchen and bedroom, and sweep the floors, get a load of wash in, and shower (if necessary).

Once my morning routine is complete, I move onto my “focus” for the day. Each day has a different one: Food Prep/Organizing, Personal/Home Projects, (Anti-)Procrastination Day, Creativity, and Home Maintenance. Of course there are all kinds of things that fall outside of these boundaries that I also include on my lists, but each day does include at least one item from the focus.

Speaking of the actual to-do list portion of my schedule, I have three starred priority slots to fill with things that MUST be completed that day. Things of non-negotiable importance…for example: paying bills. Then the other things on the list are my “bonus items”. I love it when all my bonus items get done, but in the event that one or two don’t, they then get automatically moved to the priority slots for the next day.

In addition to the household and work to-do items, I also have places on my schedule for calls or e-mails I need to return/make, and a few slots for things I want to do to nurture the relationships in my life that day. Often they have to do with my husband, but sometimes I may have a friend with a birthday coming up that I want to make a card for, or someone taking a big test that I want to text and see how they did. Perhaps it’s an e-mail just to say “I’m thinking of you”… Point is, I want to consciously make relationship nurturing a part of my days. Remember…relationships will last forever! They’re worth spending your time on.

Lastly, and perhaps bestly (I just made up that word, and I kinda like it ;-p), with the institution of this new lease on a productive life, I also gained an accountability partner that I “check in” with on Skype every single weekday. I tell ya — GET ONE! It has been so motivational knowing that I will have to admit my potential laziness to someone else. That alone makes me get up and hit the floor running most days. It’s also been wonderful to share organizational/scheduling ideas, and celebrate each others triumphs. It is very encouraging to know somebody else is rooting for you to succeed with your daily goals!

So that’s how my life has been operating for the past several weeks, and it’s been a great journey so far. My head hits the pillow each night, and I’m very pleased with what I have chosen to fill my days with. What a welcome change!

It’s just living consciously – purposefully – intentionally.

Now I’d love to know: Do you struggle with distractions and lack of productivity during your day? If so, what have you found to help combat it?

Linking up to Weekend Bloggy Reading @ Serenity Now


It’s the Simple Things…Flowers

One simple thing that predictably adds a little spark of sunshine to my day, is having cut flowers around. I consciously choose what I plant out in my yard based on the cutting qualities it possesses! 🙂

Instead of the predictable large bouquet on the kitchen table though, I love to tuck little mini arrangements all around the house: in the bathrooms, on our nightstands, beside the piano, on the kitchen window sill… Wherever you need a little splash of color!

Whenever I catch a glimpse of one, it makes my heart smile!

“A heart at peace, gives life to the body.” Proverbs 14:30

Even if you don’t have a yard full of blooms ready to cut, you can still buy $5 bouquets at the grocery store and break them up into sweet little vignettes all over the house. It will certainly be $5 well spent! – Look for varieties that last a long time to make your money stretch: alstromeria, statis, lamonium, mums of any kind, carnations, etc.

A little gift I love to bring to my apartment-dwelling friends, is a fresh picked bouquet as a hostess “thank you”. Even better: since they don’t have the space for planting blooms like you homeowners do, why not invite them over to your gardens where they can gather up their own bouquets to take back with them?

Do you like to cut flowers to bring inside and enjoy? If so, what are some of your favorites?


The Gifts Death Brings

As many of you know, my dear Grandmother recently passed away. It seems so emotionless to just spell it out in black ink like that, doesn’t it? I wish there were a special font to convey feelings… – Some of you have lived through this heart wrenching experience already, I’m sure… But for me, this was the closest I have ever been to someone who has died.

Gram wasn’t an obscure grandparent who lived far, far away. You know, the kind that would send you a sweet birthday card and gift without fail, but in a good year, you’d only get to visit them once or twice.- My grandmother actually lived with us for all of my teenage years. She had a “mother-in-law apartment” on the lower level of our house, and I lived down there with her – so we were floormates. We shared clothes and jewelry, I did her hair and nails, we had sleepovers, she was there for every big (and small) moment, milestone, and celebration of my life… She was truly a member of our immediate family, and as such, her death was much like losing a parent or a sibling. –

Then, only weeks later, a friend of mine lost her step-father. And for some reason – perhaps because that portion of my heart was still so bruised, bleeding, and vulnerable – I felt her pain very, very deeply. Like I was losing someone I loved all over again, even though I’d never even known her step-dad. The culmination of these back-to-back experiences was that my heart was left feeling raw. Spent. Done.

Death hurts, and it most assuredly takes a piece of you with it whenever its unwelcome winds blow through your life.~

I’ve struggled, as we all do, with rediscovering what “normal” is again. Truth is, I will never be the same person I once was. But must it follow that the change is a bad thing? I’m slowly beginning to see that, along with the pain, and the portion of yourself you are required to surrender to his cold hand, Death also brings priceless gifts that can affect the quality of the rest of our lives when he comes to call.

Have you found that to be true?

The first gift death has brought me is this: the realization that even though I can’t control what pops into my head, I have the ability to control what I do with it.- When a memory is triggered by a smell, a photo, a song… feelings of grief come back like a flood, threatening to crush me with their weight. All I see is that once-sweet memory tainted and blurred with a huge black “X”. A symbol of finality. Knowing it can never happen again.– I could give in, and let that “X” devour me…and some days I do. OR I could fight my way back up to the surface: straining hard to see the dear memory behind the “X”, until I have focused my sight so keenly on the goodness that sweet moment in time held. Then the “X” begins to get smaller and smaller – and eventually fades altogether. – There is a Dr. Seuss (who is, of course, the authority on all things deep and intellectual! ;-)) quote, that says, “Don’t cry because it’s over – smile because it happened.” I like that. Even in all its triteness… – That’s a part of what I’m learning from this gift. I have a storehouse of good memories and blessings to draw from, and I’m very content to let those good things grow up to (hopefully) overshadow the sadness one day. My job is to nurture and grow them.

Another gift that death has brought me, is the keen awareness that this life is not all there is. God promised that his own will be with him in heaven for all eternity. My Gram will be there with open arms to meet us when our time is over here on earth. It was not a “goodbye”, it was only a “see you later”. Somehow, resting (and some days, desperately clinging) to the faith that we will see her again, made investing in relationships here on earth fly to the top of my priority list – because relationships will never end. And investing my time, heart, and energy in something (perhaps the only thing) that is not temporal? That’s something worth making a priority in my life everyday.

And then perhaps the most practical of them all: the gift of reevaluation. I feel the brevity of life down deep in my soul now, and consequently have been taking stock of what is filling my moments, hours, weeks, months. Seeing things more in black and white. It really helps you clear out the non-essentials…the “stuff”… don’t you think? It gives you courage, and drive to go after those things you’ve always known you wanted to be a part of your life – but didn’t have the guts to pursue before. God planted the seeds that are my passions into my heart before I was even born – and I want to do my very best to cultivate them to maturity. This gift has also helped me care a whole lot less about impressing people – why does what they think matter so much? I want to live my dream, my life, my path. If people don’t understand, or “get” me, then so what? The people who were meant to be a part of my life – to love and be loved by me –  they will get me. And they’re the ones that count.

I want to live the life that I’ve been given with intentionality and purpose. Every day. Thank you, death, for those gifts.



Roasted Red Pepper Chicken Pasta

Starting with a rotisserie chicken makes this meal a snap to throw together, yet the flavor blend is complex, unusual, and delicious. – If you want even more control over what’s in your food, you can, of course, season and roast your own chicken. –

Favorite sides for this meal? Although it is a great all-in-one dish… I recommend green beans and onion buns. 🙂

Roasted Red Pepper Chicken Pasta

13 oz whole wheat pasta (I like rotini)
Rotisserie chicken – de-boned and roughly chopped
12 oz jar roasted red peppers
2 cans (11 oz each) white shoepeg corn (drained)
1 c Parmesan cheese
1 c feta cheese
2 t garlic powder
2 t dried basil
Balsamic vinaigrette

Cook pasta according to package directions and drain. Combine all of the ingredients, adding just enough balsamic vinaigrette to moisten the pasta. Toss well. Serve immediately, or heat through in a warm oven to blend flavors. Serves 8

You can find a printable version of this recipe on my food blog: Victuals

Sometimes… (and an outfit)

*This is a classic Kristin “cozy rainy day throw-and-go outfit”. Thrifted vintage sweater, WS straight legged jeans, and leather flats by Earth Shoes.

Sometimes…I feel small. Like nobody knows or cares that I even exist.

Sometimes…I feel bold and confident – ready to conquer the world!

I am overwhelmed by the burdens that I have been called to carry through this life, and worry that I will collapse beneath their weight.

Sometimes…I am overwhelmed by all the good things that surround me, and feel that I am undeserving of such happiness!

Sometimes…I get so busy, my days feel like an endless succession of mindless whirlwinds.

Sometimes…I love our sweet life of simplicity and peace.

Sometimes…I feel like one person could never possibly make a difference in this world.

Sometimes…I listen to my heart, and realize that making a difference starts with being a faithful friend, telling the special people in your life that you love and believe in them, being a dependable worker, smiling at those you pass by, bringing a breath of fresh air to an otherwise stale situation, sharing your creativity, simply being who you were made to be.- You are alive because you have something different, and wonderful, and unique to bring to this world. Just by being you.

And for all of these things, I am grateful: the happy and the sad, the busy and the quiet, the insecurity and the confidence – all part of the round scope of the fullness of life… Because they make me who I am.

What do you think about sometimes…?

Linking to Monday Mingle and True Beauty Files

Nothing Beats the Smell…

…of fresh bread baking in the oven. Don’t you agree? In fact, I heard one time that if you’re trying to sell your house: when you have prospective buyers coming to take the tour, pop a loaf in the oven (even if it’s frozen or Pillsbury dough), and the nostalgic smell will instantly start playing with their emotions. Your house will ooze, “I’m a wonderfully cozy, safe, comforting place to be…buy me!”  You might even have an offer that day! :-)-

Meanwhile, back at the ranch – today I thought I’d share my whole wheat bread machine recipe. It’s very versatile, but we enjoy it mainly for sandwiches.

Now, although I use the bread machine to make the dough, I take it out after the dough cycle, and put it into a greased loaf pan. Let it rise, (covered, in a warm draft-free place) for about 30 minutes, and then bake at 350 for another 30 minutes. – Baking your bread in the oven, instead of the machine, makes all the difference in the world! No more hard crust or hole in the bottom of the loaf.~

Whole Wheat Bread

1 1/4 c warm water (I microwave mine for 45 seconds)
2 T unsweetened applesauce
3 cups freshly ground whole wheat pastry flour
1/8 – 1/4 c sucanot or brown sugar
5 heaping teaspoons of vital wheat gluten
1 scant t sea salt
2 t active dry yeast

Place ingredients in bread machine in the order suggested by the manufacturer and select dough cycle. – You can add spices or herbs easily to this recipe. For example a teaspoon of garlic powder, and 1/2 a teaspoon each of basil and oregano make a wonderfully fragrant Italian loaf!

You can find more recipes, along with a printable version of this one, HERE on my recipe page.