Thursday, February 24, 2011

Friday, February 18, 2011

Being ladylike

My baby brother is getting married tomorrow, which is very exciting of course. However, the whole getting-dressed-up affair has me a little bit uptight. I have a dress, and just remembered midweek to go and get some new shoes. I have no idea what to do with my hair yet, but in a rash moment yesterday I visited a nail salon for the first time ever.
There's still every possibility that in the process of getting all the kidlets dressed up, I forget to brush my hair and put my new shoes on, but at least I'll have pretty nails. I'm realising this morning, though, that pretty nails means no fabric-dyeing and no sanding or painting on my latest furniture project. On a brighter note, I suppose it also means no cleaning the bathrooms or scrubbing the toilets today. In short, you won't see any action around here today - I'm too busy being ladylike!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Instant gratification

Maybe it's because I'm borderline Gen X (or is it Gen Y - I'm thinking of the one typified by instant gratification) but the other day as I contemplated my stack of blank new teatowels I suddenly had to have a teatowel with pi on it. I suppose it's because pi had been on my mind - I ordered fabric for some pouffes for the new house and found myself short on fabric because I had used 2.54 instead of 3.14 to calculate the circumference of the pouffes. And of course everyone knows that 2.54 gets you from cm to inches, not diameters to circumferences. And it really bothered me, because I thought pi was firmly embedded in my mind from highschool and uni days, only to find that I couldn't for the life of me remember what its value was - and even more embarassingly, I had to ask my husband! So anyway, everything else had to wait for a couple of days and I now have pi teatowels (and I will never forget the value of pi again).
But of course, why stop at pi? At about the same time we visited friends who had a copy of the periodic table of the elements on their side table. And then I couldn't stop thinking about the periodic table. In highschool we learned all the elements, their symbols, molecular weights and position on the table. I thought I'd never forget, only to realise as we visited, that I haven't even thought about the periodic table for at least ten years. So then of course we had to have periodic table tea towels... and times table teatowels...
Who knows what else would have happened if we hadn't run out of blank teatowels at that point?

Monday, February 14, 2011

See What My Hands and Feet Can Do!

See What My Hands and Feet Can Do!
(c) Ruth de Vos 2011

This quilt celebrates the development of a child's gross and fine motor skills. Each new skill learned is a big step in a baby's life, and another means for discovering more about this wonderful world.

This is the last of the quilts I finished over the summer (and never got around to sharing). All the quilts for the Australasian Quilt Convention in Melbourne are finished, labelled and ready to go, and the sewing around here will be focussed on soft furnishings for the new house for the next month or so.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

My new website

Once upon a time, around about last Saturday (can't believe its only been a week), Phil and I uploaded my brand new website and then other things got in the way of posting about it here. Anyway, now you know! Please do take a look if you are so inclined!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Home, tired, thankful

Wow, what a time we have had here these past few days. We evacuated our house on Sunday afternoon (the kids and I at around 2:30, and Phil at around 5pm - a big thankyou to Phil's parents for caring for us all) and returned late this afternoon. We are extremely thankful that we have a home to return to, and that the house we are building was also untouched. The whole experience has been somewhat surreal. The kids commented on the smoky smell, and we gave the usual response 'must be a bushfire somewhere', only to look outside a little while later to see the fire spreading across the hills around us at an alarming rate. And then rooftops catching alight. And people coming down our road and stopping to watch with us and the other neighbours, informing us in tears that they have just watched their house go up in flames. By late afternoon the general advice for our area was to leave, and we could see that there was going to be little we could do for our home if the wind turned the fire our way. Phil then went to our new house which was also close to the fire zone, to clean out the gutters. He described unreal views of the raging fire, with the whole area aglow, as well as hearing pops and explosions as more houses were engulfed.
With fires under control this morning, today has been a strange day - I have had mixed feelings - thankfulness and relief that we still have our current home and our new house to go back to, 'guilt' that we still have everything while so many so close by now have nothing, tension, impatience to get back home to normal life, sadness that for many life will not be normal for a long time. I am now exhausted and have a splitting headache, but we are home. Aside from a strong smoky smell, and a little ash coming through the fans, everything is fine here.
I know events like this have people asking themselves 'what would I take with me', and that people are always curious as to what others take in emergencies. I can answer the many people who asked that, yes, I did take my quilts. All the quilts which I plan to take to Melbourne in April were rolled together, and we had room and time to take them so we did (while discussing together how materialistic it felt). We also took the backup portable hard drive from the computer, important documents, a change of clothes each, the camera (for recording what we saw - but no memory card, so that was pointless), wallets, and not too much else. We plan to have a written plan for future, as I'm sure I wasn't thinking straight - given the time I had, I could have easily packed a suitcase with enough clothes for everyone for a few days (including sleepwear), proper footwear, bedding, health bags and more. Maybe it just goes to show how surreal the experience was. Even as we saw houses going up in flames my mind was telling me that surely we were overreacting by evacuating and that we could all come home late that evening, or early the next morning at the latest.

(The first picture was taken on the hill close to our house. I haven't taken photos of the burnt out houses as I didn't feel comfortable with that, but the devastation is certainly very real! The second photo is the view from our front lawn (with Phil's car parked to the side) and shows where the fire got to to the east of us. The third photo is taken near the end of our street, along my morning walk route. With the comprehensive radio coverage, we were fairly certain that we were going to come home to an intact house, but we know so many people who have experienced this fire first hand - on their street, in their neighbours homes, on their own property and even in their own house, and we can only begin to imagine the distress they have gone through and will continue to feel for some time!)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

10 Thoughts on Time Management

People very often ask me how I fit sewing into my day, and I never quite know how to answer that. However, after discussing time management with a dear friend, I thought I’d share some of the things that work for me.
  1. Know your priorities. It is helpful to keep in mind what my most important responsibilities are in life. My first responsibility is to God, and then to my husband and children. This is where daily devotions and then housework and quality family time come in. I also have responsibilities in my church community (being involved in church events and with fellow church members) and broader community. I am called to take care of myself physically, mentally and emotionally. This is where exercise and sewing come in for me. Clearly, sewing is not top priority, but I know how helpful it is for me to manage at least some sewing every week. Understanding my priorities helps me to establish my daily routine.
  2. Keep a good daily routine. My days are so much more manageable since we got Caleb and Daniel into a regular sleep routine (with coinciding sleep times!). I have a daily plan written up which includes a morning walk, daily devotions, dinner preparation, computer time, school trips and more. It’s the only way I can be sure that most things will happen on most days. I also like the reliability this gives me – I can count on being able to sort out emails etc after bringing the kids to school, and on sewing for at least one and a half hours after lunch.
  3. Plan, plan, plan. My diary is always by my side. It has a week to a spread, and all appointments go straight in. I also note down the regular weekly activities like housecleaning, and washing on Mondays, Bible study club on Tuesday evenings, grocery shopping on Thursdays. My diary also contains lots of lists – lists of things I need to do (mainly household jobs and other things that don’t classify as enjoyment), lists of things I’d like to do soon (quilts-in-progress usually appear on this list), lists of things I’d like to do eventually and so on. I try to note down EVERYTHING on one of my lists – emails and phonecalls I need to make, things I need to buy, things that need fixing, and so on. Also, if an item on the list is a bigger job, I try to break it down into smaller parts e.g revamp footstools becomes ‘buy sandpaper, sand one footstool, sand the other footstool, apply one coat of finish, apply second coat, buy foam, cut out fabric, sew cushion covers’. At the beginning of the week (actually, usually Saturday evening) I look at the need-to-do list and try to assign at least one thing from the list to each day. If there are many high-priority jobs I’ll obviously be doing more than one a day, but I try to leave room every day for some time spent on things I’d like to do (i.e. make quilts).
  4. Set goals. This is closely related to the previous point. I like to have daily, weekly and annual goals. I try to stretch myself a little without being unrealistic. (Sometimes it takes trial and error to know what ‘unrealistic’ is). I find that if I don’t set myself a goal for the day (for example, to sort out my pantry, to spend at least half an hour piecing a quilt, and to fill a page in my sketchbook) it is too easy for the day to disappear without getting to anything more than the basics. Folding the washing ends up taking twice as long as it needs to, and the half-hour that could have been spent piecing quilts was probably absorbed by blog-reading instead…
  5. Start early. Maybe this is not for everyone, but I like to start the day early. I also find for some reason that I am most productive up until morning coffee time. To me, being up early and getting stuck into my work early gives me a good start to the day, and helps my whole day to go smoothly.
  6. Make wise use of the timeslots you have (or: Make the most of sleeping kids). Last year most of my sewing was done in short time intervals (less than half-an-hour, as for a long time Daniel and Caleb alternated their day-time sleeps so that there was always one baby to deal with). I try to avoid the idea that ten minutes is too short to do anything constructive. Lots and lots of ten-minute sessions behind a sewing machine lead to a finished product eventually. Having said that, if I have ten minutes on hand such as in the morning before school, I usually first consider if there is a quick job on my list that can be done in that time – polishing shoes, scrubbing toilets, collecting dinner ingredients and utensils. I would rather fit all those little jobs into little pockets of time than let them chew into the time that the boys are sleeping.
  7. Make a place. Carve out a spot for yourself somewhere in the house where you can have the sewing machine (or other craft equipment) set up permanently. It is not possible to use those ten-minute pockets of time for sitting at the sewing machine if you first have to set it up. I currently have a sewing table right in the middle of our living space. It is made up of an interior door resting on two stacks of crates. It is not pretty, but I love it. It means that I can sew any time of day and still be around the kids. It also means that if I’m waiting for dinner to cook, or if I have spare time before picking up the kids from school, I can sew for ten minutes. Or at least organise my workspace and supplies so that I’m ready to get stuck straight into it next time.
  8. Love what you do. This is a bit self-evident, but if I was only half-hearted about making quilts, I wouldn’t bother organising my days and weeks in this way and to this extent (and that would be quite fine). Being passionate about my sewing is the biggest incentive for finding time in my week to get to my sewing machine.
  9. A clean house is not the most important thing in the world. I know that I am blessed to have a comfortable house to live in, and that I have the responsibility to look after what I have been given. However, if there is dust on my bookshelves, it’s because I dusted them last week, and won’t be dusting them again till next week. And I’m not embarrassed by this. (Well, I try not to worry about it, anyway). As my husband reminds me, I am a ‘homemaker’ and there is much more to that than ‘housemaid’.
  10. This is not a time management tip, but it’s worth remembering that we all live in different situations and circumstances, and have all been given different abilities, as well as different tasks to do. My friend is a homeschooling mum of four (similar in age to my four) living in a very different culture to ours and I know that I would never be pursuing my quiltmaking in this way if I were in her situation. Other friends have health issues to deal with, in themselves or their children, which can absorb a lot of time and energy. I am thankful that I am currently able to pursue quiltmaking as art, but am also well aware that, as with any of us, circumstances can change at any time!