Throwing a Party: Decor

I have owed you this post for a while. And I know it's been nearly three months since I last blogged. I have good reason for that - which I'll be sharing next week. Cross my heart. Right now I'm in my backyard by a citronella candle trying not to be eaten alive by mosquitos. 

But- when I last left off my throwing a party series, I was on the "decorating for the party" portion of the program.

Now, if I'm being totally honest, I don't do a lot of decorating for the holidays, or really any other big event. I say I will, but then I don't, and I get caught in a cycle of wanting to.

But decorating for parties is fun - and there are so many ideas on Pinterest! So, when I want to decorate for a party, I start with Pinterest, first. Mostly just to get an idea of the mood I'm trying to get when I have friends over for a get-together.

For a baby shower, I might decorate with a diaper cake and a clothesline of white onesies, ready to be painted for the little one on the way. Add some assorted colored tissue paper flowers - or just some crepe paper, and you have a light-hearted, welcoming shower atmosphere!

For autumn, I like what a friend of mine does - she places popcorn kernels into her candle hurricanes, which feels like it brings the cornfield indoors. It adds to the autumn mood every time you step into her home, which is a definite bonus.

In other situations, you may even want to let the food be part of (or all of) the decor. Opening Day for baseball? Hot dogs, Cracker Jack, and some baseball paraphernalia you already have may be all you need. Football? A big table of snacks and some jerseys or pictures from your collection!

And, for the backyard bash? I am a fan of garden lighting, lots of space to stand and chat, and a cooler full of drinks.

Mostly, what I'm looking for when I decorate my home for a party, is to use what I already have. For baby showers I'll be buying things to decorate, but for an autumn get-together or backyard bash? I'll be looking at what I have in my basement to dig up right now to get the house looking and feeling festive. 

Divide and Conquer: Housework

I am a stubborn person. About most things. I'm not that stubborn about housework. I figure it will get done however it needs to get done. 

Which is to say: I don't care how the dishwasher gets loaded. Just that it does. And that it gets run and emptied accordingly. 

I say all of this to start because how we do housework in my household has changed just a bit since I started working four ten-hour shifts. I get home from work each night after normal dinner time, and that gives me limited time in the evenings to get stuff done. And my mornings? Well, there is only so much I can get done before it's time to leave.

The shift in my schedule and housework was spurred by a statement I made one night while we cleaned up from dinner: it just feels like everything is half done. And at the time, it did in a way. We were still adjusting to my work schedule, I was trying to fit in far more than I should have been on my days off, and there was a lot of partially completed tasks. Most of that came from my decision to take on a lot, and I realized I took on too much.

So, we redivided how we did the housework, cooking, and cat care, all to make our days, weekends, and days off a bit easier, and to bring some cohesiveness to the household that I was sorely missing. 

To start that process, we both sat down and wrote out what we do every morning and evening to keep the house running. We put down everything we do, from the little stuff like feeding the cats and packing lunches, to the big stuff like cleaning bathrooms, cooking, groceries, and vacuuming.

And then we looked at what needed some additional attention and decided how we were going to divvy it all up to get done. What we determined was a new cooking schedule: since I get home after eight on the days I work, Allen cooks those evenings. On my off days, if I'm not visiting family, I cook. Whoever cooks handles the surface cleaning (counters, stove, sweeping the kitchen) after dinner. Whoever doesn't cleans up the dishes. 

That's just part of it. We've split up the laundry duties in half - Allen does what he can while I work during the weekend, and I finish it up during one of my weekdays off. And there's other cleaning we've redistributed, mostly things like floors and various rooms. That's where we've ended up with almost a fifty/fifty distribution - housekeeping. 

What we do before work has basically stayed the same, but the evenings have changed up just enough that we're still adjusting. But it wasn't until we sat down and looked at all that we each do to keep the house running that it all made sense. Changing up who does what chores is where things are now just that much easier - the house runs a bit smoother, and nothing feels half-done anymore. 

The redivision of housework to get it all conquered is totally worth it to both of us - even on days when we both feel extra lazy. It's not quite fifty/fifty, but it works for us, and that's what matters. 

It's the Most Wonderful Time..

Okay, so I love the holiday season. I love the lights. The colors. How cozy and warm everything looks and feels (like seriously, guys, Christmas lights and Hanukkah candles? Bright and warm!). And I mean, when you find a cake like this at a holiday party? Well, it's sort of a win. 

And yep, that is an Elf on the Shelf cake. And it's kind of awesome. And yes, the frosting was that green in real life. Maybe greener. 

Now, I've been on the busier side of things over the past, oh, two weeks. Getting ready for the holidays, getting into the swing of things at work, and trying to get back into a running and workout schedule have made up the majority of what I've been doing, in addition to scrapbooking and pinning things like crazy. 

So, what I've been working on most in my free time? My December Daily scrapbook. I'm not really that great at documenting every day, so I've been working on just getting the stories down - memories of putting up a tree with a kitten in the house. Lots of hot cocoa (lots). Slippers and sweaters and cozy things and it's been really fun! I hope to have a pretty detailed post about the process up soon.

Scrapbooking has been one of those things this winter that I have gotten really excited about. Like even more than usual and I'm normally pretty excited about my scrapbooking. I'm mostly just enjoying all of the colors and working in the smaller format - it's easy without being overwhelming. 

But what has me wanting to play all the Christmas carols? We put up our Christmas tree over the weekend!

I get most excited, I think, about our glittery penguin tree topper and my plush menorah ornament. They're both fun and quirky and I think really just representative of us.

We had a lot of fun digging out our decorations and ornaments and mostly covered the tree in colorful globes, glittery globes, glass animals (some of my favorite ornaments),and plush stuffed ornaments to make a fun and bright tree that I think is just perfect.

Our tree warms up the room quite a bit, and we've been enjoying sitting in the living room with it all lit up. The glow just makes it feel even more like the holidays and Christmas and adds a bit of coziness to the room, too. When you couple it with the lit garland we have on our mantle? It's perfect.

For me, this really is probably the most wonderful time of the year just in warmth, coziness, and everything in between. Fall will always be my favorite season, but Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Hanukkah? Definitely have my heart, too.

Weekending: Paint Everywhere

My weekend left me sore, exhausted, excited, triumphant, and covered in paint. It was busy and full of laughter. It was fun. But it was exhausting. And did I mention the paint?

Seriously though, we've had some pretty epic weekends now two weeks in a row. Last weekend it was the Bunbury Festival, and this weekend I bought a new day planner (yep, already. We have a lot of stuff coming up in the next 18 months, which is going to make life really busy.  A day planner was a must-have!), visited the cats at the shelter I volunteer at, and we hosted one of Allen's out-of-town coworkers for the afternoon and dinner on Saturday night.

Hectic? Sure. Fun? Yes. But the real fun and hectic events didn't get started until mid-Sunday afternoon, when we started to clean and dust the walls in our bedroom to get them prepped for some satiny gray-blue paint we picked out a couple weeks ago. There was a lot of moving of furniture not moved since much earlier this year. Lots of dusting and sweeping and vaccuming. Laying dropcloths. Then, we got to the painting, only an hour after we started (hey, bookshelves had to be taken out of our room. The bed had to be moved, and the dressers? Well, we had to work around those.).

So, the last time we painted was before we moved into our old apartment. That was five years ago. It was quite the undertaking. Painting is hard, you guys. I took painting in college and let me just say: the techniques are way different. For one, there is a LOT less shading, and probably a lot fewer colors. For another? Painting outside the lines means spots on the ceiling. Thank goodness for white paint.

Now, how did we get our room painted? Well, that's for a step-by-step to tell, because well, there was not a lot, and quite a lot involved:

  • Clean the walls with a dust rag and vacuum away any cobwebs. Magic eraser the scuff marks. Before the paint is even mixed, wonder just exactly why you decided painting would be a good idea. Remember that it's because you really don't like beige.
  • Move all the furniture away from the walls. Dust some more. Decide to move a bookshelf into the hallway to maximize space. Dance with the cats as they decide that the only room you don't want them in today is the onlyroom they want to be in. Because they're cats.
  • Lay your dropcloths out. Cover the bed because, well, it's your bed. Open the windows and pop a fan in to keep the paint fumes at a minimum. Realize that even low-odor paint is fumey, even when it comes without VOCs.
  • Tape everything off. You have a lot of wood trim in your house, so this will take a while. You might want to put some music on. Take down any switchplate and outlet covers that may be otherwise covered in paint. Make sure you put the screws and covers in a place you'll be able to find them later. This is important.
  • Paint! Well, actually, open the paint, mix it, put it into the tray, and start cutting in the edges. Then start painting the walls. Try not to get it on the ceiling, and remember you taped your edges for a reason. Remind yourself that white paint is exactly for covering up where you missed and got paint on the ceiling. It's OK. It's just paint - you can paint over it.
  • Midway through painting, stand up and trip and get paint all over your elbow in an attempt to catch yourself on the freshly-painted wall. Mutter something under your breath. Be grateful that was the first coat.
  • Once the first coat is done, check the first wall for dryness. When it's deemed dry enough, start the second coat. This time, you'll step in paint drips on the drop cloths. This is only a problem if you decide to step off of a drop cloth. Again, be thankful for hardwood floors. In the future, remind yourself to grab a few damp rags for just those moments. Grumble when you get paint on the floor. Grumble more when you almost paint your hair. Be very glad you're almost done.
  • When you're finished, take a shower. Rub off most of the gray paint. Realize your elbows are elephant-colored but the walls are a dark blue-gray. Only slightly darker than you anticipated. Look at the mess around the room. Decide to eat dinner and worry about it later. Leave the window opened, the door closed, and the cats out.
  • Finally, go to bed in the newly-painted, far-less-fumey and far-more-homey room. Love the color and the woodwork against its new background. Realie you intend to do this in another room in about a month. Vow to buy some beer for next time For after. Because you don't want to mess up such a pretty color in your bedroom.

Making Time

Last Wednesday, I went to bed with the knowledge that there was both freezing rain and snow predicted to fall overnight, with the worst of it happening during morning rush hour. With this in mind, I set the alarm to plan for a long commute. I ended up waking up a full half hour earlier than planned, and didn't realize it until I was almost ready for work. The extra time I had that morning made me realize just how much I take my time for granted.

I'm often told that I have really good time management skills. When I ask why, I'm told it's because I am good at prioritization. Waking up earlier than usual last week made me really think about how I prioritize, and the idea of time management as a whole. I mean, time governs so much of our lives - keeping track of it to get out of the house on time in the morning, when our favorite TV shows are on, when to wake up - it's all important. In my day-to-day life I tend to use time to know how long I need to allow to complete my day-to-day tasks. 

Of course, everyone uses time like this - how can we not? There are deadlines to be met, tasks that have to be completed to keep households running and to keep our days going smoothly. But - how often do we catch ourselves thinking that there needs to be more time? I know when it's time for bed and my favorite jeans need washed - I'm right there. What I've learned though, is that while we all have the same 24 hours to get things done, to sleep, eat, work, and exercise, it's how I choose to spend those 24 hours that is important.

Making time for what needs to be done, and making time for what I want to do all is part of how I manage my time. When I think about it, I have to call it prioritization, but in the moment, it's all a series of decisions. Time management really is all about knowing what you have to do, what you want to do, and how much time you have to do it in, and planning your time accordingly. 

For me, I am most effective with big plans when I have my day planner at the ready. When I'm planning out a week, I tend to prioritize based on what I have to do first, followed by what I want to do, and then fill in any "extra" time as it is avaialble. This doesn't mean that I'm scheduled to the max, what it gives me is a framework within which I can work to keep my days running smoothly. I know that typically I have about five hours between dinner and bedtime, and if I want to read before bed, I need to make sure I plan to make that happen.

Mostly, though, I manage my time as I need to - once all of my musts are planned out for the week, I figure out my free time as it comes. Concerts, movies, reading, even blogging - I have time for it all. I mean, we all have the same 24 hours as anyone, right? When I think about it like that, I realize that I have plenty of time - I just need to manage it appropriately and everything will fall into place.