Making Time

I’ve often posted about time-management before. Whenever I’ve posted recently, my focus has been about trying to find time to progress my knitwear design ideas. I thought it might be useful if I posted about how I’ve recently managed to incorporate knitwear design into my day. It was nothing short of making time.

Where ideas germinate...

Where ideas germinate…

One of the things I’ve figured out is time. Over the years I’ve tried different a approaches to getting tasks done such as Flylady, HabitHacker or Pomodoro Technique. Each to them advocates setting a timer for a specific length of time and working on it until the timer goes off.

Flylady’s motto is “you can do anything in 15 minutes”. When your 15 minutes are up you take a 15 minute break. Habit Hacker recommends two 11 minute sessions – one to pull something apart and the next to put it all back together again – with an eight-minute break afterwards.

Both of these shorter time periods are ideal for tackling chores about the house. If I was trying to get stuck into a longer task in work I used Pomodoro Technique. The time period for this technique, a Pomodoro, is 25 minutes long with 5 minute interval breaks. After four Pomodoros (i.e. two hours) you’re meant to take a longer break of 20 minutes.

After trying all of these strategies I’ve eventually progressed to a personal system of time-keeping, based on 12-minute time slots. I do what I call a brain dump and list out – in no particular order – all the tasks that are vying for attention in my head. Then I’ll assess the list to prioritise the tasks in terms of how important and/or urgent they are.

Finally, I assess the prioritised tasks for how long I think each will take – in multiples of 12 minutes. In this way, I can quickly assess how many tasks I can get done in a given time. If I only have an hour but I have five high priority tasks I know I can only spend on average 12 minutes on each. Or perhaps I’ll allow 48 minutes for something that requires more focus then I’ll take a break by doing something else for 12 minutes. This is currently how I organise my workday.

Adopting this method was very helpful in figuring out how my daily morning routine could be adapted to incorporate some time for knitting design. I determined a logical sequence for my morning routine tasks from when I got up until I left for work. By dividing the time into 12 minute slots, and assigning each slot activities from this sequence, I automatically became more focused on where my time was going. In turn this meant that by getting up only a little earlier I was able to fit in a 48 minute session for me to focus on designing.

Excerpt from my bullet journal

For Time it is a precious thing…

Rather than have timers going off constantly throughout the morning I have a mental timetable of what I should be doing at specific times. As a result my morning routine looks like this:

6:00 get up, use bathroom
6:12 load the washing machine from previously sorted clothes baskets
6:24 have breakfast
6:36 knitting design session begins
7:24 buffer slot: make a cup of tea / wake any kids not yet up
7:36 ablutions, dress for work
8:00 fold the laundry hanging to dry; hang the load just washed
8:24 cajole the kids to get their shoes and coats on for school
8:36 drive to work to start my full-time job.

I’ve been doing this for the past six weeks and it’s being working really well for me. It’s only thanks to this focus on time that I’m now able to sit down and knit design swatches and figure out details of the designs that have been buzzing around my head for years! As a result, I was able to send a design submission to Knitscene three weeks ago and I’m about to send a different design submission to another print magazine in the morning.

If I hadn’t taken the time to get to grips with time I would never have found time to make time.

Do you think this approach would work for you? If you have time-management tips and tricks to share I’d love to hear them.

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Taking Charge

Time-management guru, Alison Mitchell, has a wonderful exercise in her book “Time Management for Manic Mums” to demonstrate her “Wine Bottle Theory of Time Management”. You get a jug and try to fill it with apples, blueberries, caster sugar and wine.

  • The apples represent the urgent and important tasks, the things you have to do or you’ll get bitten in the ass like going to work, paying bills or feeding kids.
  • The blueberries represent important tasks but there’s no urgency – doing them will save you time in the long run like setting up a system for making sure bills get paid on time. For me, following through on publishing patterns is in this category.
  • Then the caster sugar represents tasks that are important to, or urgent for, someone else – in my case that’s housework. I do it because I know it makes DH happy when it’s kept on top of, but it would be low on my priority list otherwise.
  • And then there’s a bottle of wine – ah… wine! It represents all the things I’d rather be doing like crafting, twitter, Ravelry – than the important things I should be doing.

You get the idea: if we fill our jug / day with wine or caster sugar first we’ll struggle to get the important apples and blueberries in there. If you put the apples in first the smaller items of lesser importance will fill in around the gaps.

Case in point: this morning, instead of washing the floors as I’d planned, I played with an Excel spreadsheet of my stash that I’d exported from Ravelry. Naturally, the floors did not get washed at all as my “wine” task took over my time.

Playing with my stash spreadsheet is a favourite game of mine as I try to plan my next knitting / crochet project based on maximising how much stash I’ll use up. With almost 74 kilometers of yarn to work through it’s an understandable obsession.

This week is my first of 10 weeks of parental leave (hence all the blogging action!). For six of those 10 weeks, we will be living in the south of France so I was developing my knitting plan around working with cotton and linen to cope with the heat. In fact I bought a new project’s worth of linen with this plan in mind when I was at La Droguerie in Paris last week. This is the logic that has me struggling with 74km of yarn!

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Haul from La Droguerie, Paris

However, rather than a stash-dive being my usual exercise in choosing “wine” over “caster sugar” this morning it turned into an “apple” moment as a realisation dawned on me…

You may have noticed the “current status” of my two design ideas in my last post was “stewing”. If you recall my previous blog-post “Potential” I had challenged myself to publish an average of one pattern per month for the next year. I wrote that in November 2013. So where are the seven or so new patterns designed by me?

Sadly, still in my head!

And here’s the why: I’ve been busy! The wrong kind of busy – I’ve been filling my jug/time with going to work; looking after the kids and house; knitting or crocheting; working through stash… or teachers’ presents… or items to enter in the local horticultural show. I’ve allowed myself to be so “Busy” with busy-ness of everyday things I’ve avoided the the business of being a designer: knuckling down, swatching and sketching, pattern-writing and testing.

Rather than fill my 10-week-carafe with delicious French wine and come back from France with three new cotton or linen sweaters and several dishcloths, I’m taking charge of my pitcher to pick some juicy “blueberries” from my stash to swatch with instead:

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It’s all in my head…

Procrastination

It may amuse you to know that I decided on the name of this blog post a week ago. Yet… here I am… only getting to it now!

You may also not be surprised to learn that when I was reading the book “Time Management for Manic Mums” I got stuck on the chapter that dealt with procrastination.

Yes, somehow, Procrastination and I are long-time, close companions and I can’t say that I feel much benefit from the relationship. Today, I am attempting to get the upper hand by using it as a theme and thereby – perversely – as a motivation to tackle this long-outstanding blog-post.

WIPdown

Petals Wrap and the Hideous Dress of Wrong are Procrastination’s best allies and despite taking Petals with me on a week away after Easter I haven’t done much to make a dint in either WIP.

‘nuf said!

StashDown

It’s acutally surprising how reticent I’ve been on my blog in the past month because I’ve accumulated no less than four FOs!

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    Spring-time

  1. Spring as Spun – you may remember me finishing off the yarn for this in the previous post. While I procrastinated about making the yarn for months, and then about plying it for a few more months, making it into an FO took only two days. I cast-on on March 19th and was casting-off the following evening. I made 198 yds. of Heaven and had literally only enough yarn. Though I enjoyed making it, and I’m delighted with the FO, I do think the yarn would have been better used in a faux-fair-isle project of some sort: the colour changes were so delicate, and my decision to nav-ply the yarn so that these subtitles would be preserved, meant the yarn could have worked very well in colourwork with a strong contrast colour. [Yarn knit = 184m]
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    Lesser Spotted Socks

  3. Golf socks – after my last post (mid-March), I realised my mother’s birthday was fast approaching in early April. She has been a happy recipient of my knit-wear in the past so I decided on a quick pair of socks: Golf Socks from the book Socks, Socks, Socks in Austermann Step. I started them on March 24th and finished them on April 3rd – just in time to post them off for her birthday. The hand of this yarn is great, infused as it is in Jojoba and Aloe Vera but I didn’t care much for the measley-look of the colourway. However, my mother pronounced my workmanship as fantastic and – I think – was delighted with the idea of handknit socks especially for her golf-obsession. [Yarn knit = 210m]
  4. 3 wombs – suffice to say that after much jiggery-pokery (no pun intended) I finally managed to find someone in the US willing to receive my wombs and pass them on to “worthy” public representatives. Much thanks to Elise Cohen, one of the moderators for the Ravelry Group government free v-jj, for hooking me up (pun intended) with Laura Hirsh of Day Spa & Gift Boutique, Sierra Madre, CA. I believe Laura has put one on display in the window of her business to raise awareness of the effort. I’ve promised her a more-carefully-crafted womb in a chunky yarn (to make it larger) for her to put on display instead. [Yarn knit = unknown!]
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    Sisters! Doin' it for themselves!


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    Pheasant Enough

  6. Multnomah – I started this (I don’t remember why) in early March and put it away again after a day when I realised that deadline-knitting was looming. I was on holiday for a week after Easter Sunday in West Cork and brought this project with me. It was a good choice since most of my knitting time was also chatting time and there would have been no way I could have focussed on the Petals Wrap, which I also brought. I finished it a few days after returning to Dublin. I had some struggles with the cast-off but all worked out well in the end. [Yarn knit = 373m]
I’ve managed to de-stash at least 767m of yarn – more if I knew how much yarn I’d used in the wombs!

Lacealong2012

My last post contained images of me wearing Shrug for Blue Dress and my concern about whether it fit. I was persuaded by commenters, here and on twitter, that it does so I have determined to extend the sleeves with the remaining 14g of Malabrigo Yarn Lace. I’m using the ribbed lace chart in the pattern for now; and intend to finish off with the scalloped lace chart when I have only a gram or two of yarn left.

12in12

So between Multnomah and Spring As Spun I’m now up to three shawls this year. Considering we’re nearing the end of the fourth month I am a little behind. My next shawls will both be for my children’s teachers. I just need to decide what they might like – colour-wise, especially – and what yarn I have in my stash to sufficient quantities. One teacher likes green, apparently – DD asked her straight-out what her favourite colour was and then pretended she was doing a survey of how many people in the class liked green. MC advises his teacher wears the colours of France, which I take to mean the French Flag. All I have gathered is that her coat is black and that she has, on occaision worn a red hat or a blue hat.

I had initially thought about Haruni by Emily Ross but this requires more skeins than I have available. I liked Gingko too but on closer inspection I wonder if it’s not just another version of Ishbel. Nothing wrong with that, really, but I do like to try new ideas rather than variations on a theme.

I’ve been doing a bit of drilling through Ravelry’s database, looking first at what fingering weight yarn I have in green and then at pattern ideas for those yarns. It has been a useful exercise that has thrown up some suggestions I would not have automatically considered.

Gems from the Web

I had the pleasure, last Saturday (14th April) of not just meeting Kate Davies but of also learning a cool new technique – the Steek Sandwich (or as us Irish are calling it “The Schteak Sangidge”). If a person can be described as a gem from the web I’d have to use the term for Kate. If you haven’t come across her blog or her patterns before now please click on the previous links. I’ll wait here until you come back, honest!

I just love how she writes with such intelligence and erudition on so many topics, be they traditional techniques or modern experiences. It is evident in how she elucidates that she has a grounding in academia and research. I’m positively “fly-by-night” in comparison. I remember reading (and commenting on) an article she wrote about Aran Knitting. I remember thinking : Finally, here is someone who has properly understood the history behind Aran Knitting and has carefully investigated and dispelled many myths.

Some time after this, Kate suffered a stroke. She has documented her recovery on her blog and it is another layer of credit to her character and personality how she has willed herself back to full health and fitness.

Wow! Such an inspiring person. One of those rare occasions when you realise you were in the presence of a great lady. Why not say it? Why be bashful on this score. She is amazing and thank all that is good that she survives and thrives.

Oh! and yeah – I want to cut my knitting soooo much now… This was the last remaining technique that I have procrastinated about. After cutting my knitting with the warm support of the other knitters attending the workshop I have driven off any scruples about doing this again.

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Cutting a crocheted steek

Nike+ GPS

One thing I have been seriously procrastinating about over the past month (and beyond) is getting out for a run. Initially, it was fear of further injury that prevented me. Then, when my knee was completely healed and I couldn’t even blame weather or bad timing, I had to force myself to assess why I still procrastinated about getting out for a run. Partially, I felt over-whelmed by the 10k training programme that Nike+ had set for me. It required me to run for 50mins at lunchtime, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. I was put off. However, that doesn’t explain why I couldn’t have got out for 30mins on some of those days instead?

I had to delve deeper and then I realised I had a fear of running incorrectly.

I know a LOT about knitting and crochet. I’m beginning to learn more about spinning. I am happy for these three subjects to be my primary areas of research and learning. For the rest of my interests, I’m happy to enjoy them without knowing too much. I can sew a few pieces of material together and thereby I quilt; I can put one foot in front of the other slightly faster than I may walk and thereby I run. I don’t really want to wonder or worry too much more about it and I don’t need too until… I need to!

The wonky-knee I suffered in after my run in London stopped me in my tracks(uit!). One of my knitting buddies – who *has* made it her business to know as much about running as she does about knitting – gave me some in-sight into why my knee was suddenly suffering as it was. Much of it was to do with my new runners and specifically the extra cushioning being given to my heel. This was resulting in my coming down too hard on my heel and putting my knee-joint into shock. She advised me to take greater care about how my foot hit the ground with each stride.

I realise now that I had to process this for a few weeks and this was the real reason for my procrastination. I recently decided on a running method that I’m calling “The Ostrich”! I visualise myself as running like an Ostrich – complete with the HUGE ass and “head-in-the-sand” tendencies – and I make sure to strike the ground with the ball of my foot first, as I imagine an Ostrich does. People that I have descibed this running style too have pondered whether it is similar to a style called “Chi-running”. Should I ever get so far as to do a bit of research on this score I might be able to elucidate! All I know is: today I ran over 6k and I’m not feeling any ill-effects in my shins or calf muscles. That’ll do, Ostrich, that’ll do!

One day in my life

One of my favourite books is called “Time Management for Manic Mums”. It’s a terrible title, which actually prevents me from buying it for all my friends who are working-mums. What Mum wants to be told they’re manic?

You always feel like you have more to do when it’s all buzzing around your head. One of the main exercises that I’ve learned from TMFMM is “The Daily Dozen”. This is where I’m meant to sit down for 12 minutes and plan and prioritise all that’s to be done the following day. Whenever I’ve done this and actually followed through with my plan the next day, it has felt fantastic. However, as we all know: The Plan often bears little or no resemblance to The Reality.

  • 6:09 – Alarm goes off – spring out of bed, throw leggings and a coat over pj’s and go out to walk the dogs for 30 mins
    • 6:29 – Alarm goes off – switch it to snooze
  • 6:37 – Return from walk, and jump in the shower
    • 6:37 – Alarm goes off – switch it to snooze… again
  • 6:45 – Get dressed, start to wake the kids, put on a laundry wash
    • 6:45 – Alarm goes off – switch it off and consider getting up
  • 7:00 – encourage kids to set the table and sit down to eat their breakfast
    • 7:00 – Get out of bed because one of your kids is demanding attention / breakfast / ransom for their sibling’s freedom
  • 7:45 – Encourage kids to finish breakfast and get dressed
    • 7:45 – Plead with your offspring, for the umpteenth time, would they ever tell you what they wanted in their bowls because you’re running out of time / patience / milk
  • 8:05 – Encourage kids to get teeth & hair brushed quickly so they can have some playtime as a reward
    • 8:05 – Start panicking because you’re still in PJ’s and may have to abandon all hope of getting a shower
  • 8:25 – Encourage kids to tidy-up toys because we’re leaving in a few moments
    • 8:25 – Start harassing kids to finish breakfast / brush hair / brush teeth / get coat on / get shoes on / all of the above
  • 8:40 – Leave house to drive The Earl to the crèche and then walk kids into school before continuing on to work
    • 8:45 – Leave house in a blind panic to drive DD & DS1 to school first or else they’ll be late; and then go on to crèche and continue on to work
  • 9:20 – Arrive at work, sit down and begin follow your workplan that you drew up the previous day.
    • 9:30 – Arrive at work and realise you’d arranged a meeting at 9:15 halfway between your home & work because you were trying to be efficient with your time… but you’d forgotten. Leave the office to drive halfway home again and arrive at meeting 30mins late. (This actually happened to me on Monday.)

The Road to Hell, paved as it is with the best of intentions, continues in this vein for the rest of the day. By the time the evening rolls around, quite a gulf has opened between Plan and Reality.

  • 8:30 – Kids in bed, finish off folding and putting away laundry, sit down and knit for an hour before bed-time at 10.00
    • 9.00 – Sit down to knit, start watching House or Bones or some period drama with DH while ignoring the mountain of laundry beside you and the fact that if you don’t go to bed until 12 there’s no way you’ll be able to get up early to walk the dogs in the morning

And so the viscous circle continues…

I do not like the SAHM I am

I registered to run the Mini-marathon this year. Ever since my nephew was born with a heart-defect and needed emergency care and surgery in Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin four years ago my sister has run the Mini-marathon to raise funds for Crumlin. In fact, she has vowed to do this for the next twenty years – such is the debt of gratitude she feels she owes to the fantastic staff at the Hospital. My plan was to accompany her and help to contribute to her undertaking. However, as she’s run it a few times before, this year she was actually going to run it i.e. at speed, so I wasn’t exactly going to be keeping her company during the run.

I managed to get out training for it once. My sister encouraged me that I could still walk it. I was sceptical. I also had difficulties trying to get my registration letter printed. To get my race number I had to bring it to the RDS on Friday, Saturday or Sunday . However, between DD’s birthday party on Saturday (and getting ready for it all week beforehand) and my MIL’s birthday party on Sunday, getting to the RDS wasn’t possible. Again, my sister offered to get my number for me if I emailed her my letter. In the end, my heart (or my mind or my body) wasn’t in it and I opted out. My sister ran the 10k in one hour and three minutes and said finishing was a great feeling. I’m jealous of that great feeling and more than a little disappointed in myself.  

It’s not the only thing I’m disappointed in myself for. During a recent check-up with the dentist it’s evident my addiction to chocolate, which started during my last pregnancy, has taken its toll on my teeth. I’ve gone from having no fillings to six in as many years. I met my 20-weeks-pregnant-SIL on Sunday and I look more pregnant than she is. I’m also thoroughly fed-up with myself and my “relationship” with housework. I obsess about housework in the same way as many women I know obsess about calories or their weight. I seem to think about it constantly: “when am I going to do it”, “how much do I need to do”, “how little can I get away with”, “how can I avoid it by pretending I’m doing something more important”. If I spent even a fraction of the time doing it as I spend thinking about doing it there wouldn’t be any housework to obsess over. 

I’m due to go back to work on 1st August – two months time. Time is upon me to get mind and body back in shape and get some focus / toning for both. As usual I’ve got books to consult and to help collate a plan, a strategy for what I should be doing and how to get it all done.  

So, here it is – what I want to achieve:

  • Exercising my tummy muscles – I want to get back into using Jorge Cruise’s Exercise & diet Plan. It involves getting up early in the morning and exercising – not really 8 minutes, the whole thing is more like 20 but I really enjoyed it before. I also like the structure it gives to the day: I have to make sure to eat every 3 hours. Plus, I have to get to bed by 10p.m. My problem to date has been that The Earl also likes to wake up early, sometimes at five. However, I realised the other day, maybe he’d enjoy lying on the floor beside me watching my do my contortions – it’s worth a try.
  • Expressing milk – I underestimated how much the twice-daily school run would eat into my personal time. I have found it impossible to date to sit down and express milk for The Earl. Consequently, he doesn’t use bottles at all but, worse still, I haven’t been able to donate to the Human Milk Bank, as I did last time around. However, if I want to keep The Earl off formula for his first year (as I did with DD & DS) I need to build up some stock. Plus, if I want to be able to express at work I need to increase supply and get into the habit now!
  • Spending quality time with The Earl – half an hour of one-on-one attention each day, according to Dr. Sally Ward in Baby Talk. Easier said than done and my main problem is not so much finding time as getting bored long before half an hour is up. This is where the Baby Play book by Gymboree comes in. Now that the weather has made a turn for the better, I’d like to get down to the beach in the afternoons with the three of them.
  • More focused use of time in general –  I’d especially like to put housework into the background by just doing it, not thinking about it. I think if I make myself so busy and focussed in general I’ll be more inclined to just “get-on-with-it”. In part, I’m worried about when I return to work – will I have the right mental attitude to get on with the projects I’m assigned even if it’s something I’m not interested in? I need to get more disciplined with myself. The key to this, and all of the above, is my fav book “Time Management for Manic Mums”. I have to re-read it: I got stuck before on the chapter about procrastination – no kidding! And I still wonder about when I’m going to get to the next chapter about living in the present – ha ha ha!

So now I’ve made my revalation to myself and the world – I’ve written it down, tried to come out of denial. This is the first day of the rest of my life. Here goes…

In My Arsenal

A working-mum's arsenal

As a full-time working mum I need “amo” to keep house and head in order.

Time Management for Manic Mums by Allison Mitchell.

I found this book fantastic! And if it weren’t for the offence I fear I’d cause by the title I’d buy it for all my friends, my sister and all my sisters-in-law. None of them are manic mums but life sure is fast paced, just trying to chase your own tail.

Mother Daughter Wisdom-: Creating a Legacy of Physical and Emotional Health by Christiane Northrup.

It’s a strange blend of eastern philosophy and alternative medicines with western rationality. It’s a bit “trippy” at times and not everyones cup of tea. But it has some fantastic points to make when I’m able to listen.

How Clean Is Your House? by Kim Woodburn and Aggie MacKenzie.

I often have daydreams of getting these two ladies in to give a talk as part of our tenant induction courses. Not to cause anyone offence of course but I think we’ve all forgotten the art of cleaning. They certainly helped me to de-mysitfy the concept and to realise it doesn’t take forever if you do a little at a time.

BabyTalk by Sally Ward.

I make a point of picking this up occaisionally, just to check on what should be happening in my kids development or what we should be doing to keep all on track. I don’t quite manage the 1/2 hour-a-day of undivided attention with each that she recommends but there’s a lot here that we have been able to do and that we found invaluable.

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Muse: Trials and Tribulations

Over the past six weeks I’ve been through the mill.

Not a woolen mill where I was metaphorically transformed from fluffy fleece to workable yarn. No, a stone-mill where the wheat gets sorted from the chaff.

I learned whether I was wheat or chaff!

Trial By Jury

In non-chronological order I had three trials over the past while, the first being applying for a new position where I work. It was an internal competition for a temporary position that would have taken me out of Architecture and into mainstream Administration and Management. That’s essentially what I’m doing these days anyway, there being very little Architecture in the pipeline these days.

I applied at the end of April and didn’t know if I would even get short-listed. I got word that I made the grade two days before the interview. I did my best to prepare but I remember feeling that I was at the very limit of my own intellect and ability in the process. The interview was so-so. They asked some excellent questions – questions that I really wish I had an answer for, questions that brought it home to me that I wasn’t in the right league at all. My immediate feeling on leaving the room was that I wouldn’t have given me the job.

With the benefit of  hind-sight I realise I should have been preparing mini-essays and reading-up from the moment I submitted the application form five weeks earlier. Hopefully there will be a next time and I can make use of this insight.
The process was useful to help me realise also that I’m being held-back – possibly deliberately – by those in my current workplace. I need to tackle this but as yet I haven’t got my head around how to do so.

Knitty-Trial

While I was disappointed that I hadn’t acquitted myself better in the interview I was sanguine about it given the lack of effort and preparation I had given the opportunity. It’s hard to accept defeat or failure when you have given something your all. Which brings me to the sad tale of my Knitty submission. Unfortunately, I received word – in the form of a very nice email with really positive feedback – that my pattern submission was rejected. Amy Singer said she loved the pattern and gave special mention to the photography (which was pretty awesome, thanks to DH) but because they rarely print kids patterns “so it’s extra hard to get through in this category”.

Dejected doesn’t cover how I felt. In a word, I was devastated, irrational as that may seem. I knew they rarely print kids’ patterns but I was audacious / arrogant enough to think that this pattern had something more that would over-come this hurdle. Plus, I deliberately sized the pattern to cover from toddlers to teens.

For now, I’m still licking my wounds. Amy suggested I submit the pattern to Petite Purls but for now I’m sitting on it and wondering how best to give it a debut.  Once bitten, twice shy and all that; I’m unsure I’ll put myself “out there” as a designer again.

Endurance Test

Since I like to focus on the positive rather than the negative I’ve got to give you my tribulation. As many of you know I’ve been donning running shoes (and questionable outfits) and training for the Women’s Mini-Marathon. This is my third year to take part (fourth to sign-up :-0) and my first year to have trained sufficiently. By Race-Day last year the longest I had run continuously was 20minutes. I decided to do a back-to-back of my longest training run so I walked for five minutes, ran for 20, walked for 10 mins, ran for another 20 then walked the rest of the way. My time was sufficiently good that I was allowed to enter as a fast-jogger this year.

This year I started my training earlier and was more diligent about sticking with it. As I came close to the end of the 9-week “Couch To 5K” training programme (C25k) – where I was running 20 to 25 minutes continuously – I found a training schedule on Action Aid’s website for running 10k and I started to adapt the last few weeks of C25k to suit. It mainly meant adding an extra run on a Friday and lengthening my other runs during the week or doing some speed-training called “Fartleks”.

Before the race this year I got chatting with a fellow fast-jogger who has a few London and Dublin Marathons under her belt. She had a similar target time of 75 minutes. I told her of my plan to walk for the first five minutes, run for 60 then walk for the last five as a five-minute walk was the warm-up in my training sessions. As it turned out, when the race started everyone around me took off at a run. If I had tried to walk, I would have either been trampled or caused an accident. Denise, my new “running-mate” cheered me to go for it, that I would be fine. So I did.

To my amazement, I finished the 10k just (literally) under one hour, clocking-in officially at 59minutes 52 seconds. Elated, thrilled, ecstatic don’t fully cover how gob-smackingly amazed I am at having done this. I even wonder did I really run the whole route. Surely I must have missed a kilometer or two?

My sister and my neice (her daughter) were also running and we all finished within 90 seconds of each other. My neice passed me just after 9km and called out to me. I called back (we were both wearing head-phones so we’re pretty sure we were absolutely roaring at each other!) that she shouldn’t wait for me, I’d slow her down. However, I tried to keep her in my sights for the last kilometer. That was the push I needed to get me over the line under 60 minutes.

That the three of us will managed to complete the race in less than 60 minutes this year means we will all be in the “Runners” enclosure at the start of the race next year. Then the *real* competition will start!

So in one case I was found to be chaff, in another I was whole-wheat goodness while the Knitty trial still chaffs (see what I did there?!?)

In all cases, I guess, it’s all grist to my mill.

What a WIP I am

I need an over-haul. A whole new me – in the clothes department anyway.

I see clothes as a neccessity but I hate shopping for clothes. Ergo, clothes-shopping is a neccessary evil that I have done very well in avoiding for years now. The last-time I remember buying clothes was three years ago.

I tend to buy cheaply and for comfort rather than style. I think I have a personal style – I just don’t know what it is. I have never been a dedicated follower of fashion. I don’t buy “women’s magazines” and the only time I read the fashion pages is when there’s nothing else to hand at the hair-dressers. Even that’s a rare enough occassion since I only go to the hair-dressers two to three times a year.

I need to start from scratch.

It’s been on my mind to go to a stylist to get a make-over. Initially, I looked into getting an image consultant to advise me about my personal style and then come to my home to help me assess what should stay and what should go from my wardrobe. One I was looking at offers a package deal combining these things and also half-a-day shopping to buy outfits based on the advice. A worry I had was that this image consultant might reject my hand-knits and I’m not sure I can bring myself to throw them out, or even to leave them unworn in my wardrobe.

I put a call out on Twitter about going to see an image consultant and got loads of advice in return.

@Elana wanted to round-up a few of my fiber-friends and go on a shopping-spree – for me! There are a lot of advantages to this approach. I would save money on the image consultant for one. And I could imagine it could be lots of fun for the others who enjoy shopping – living vicariously through my purchases. However, 140 characters was too little to tell @Elana of the blast from my past this would be:

When I was in 3rd year in college we had a college trip to Jersey for a week to do a number of design projects. My luggage never arrived. For the first few days I got by with the clothes I was standing up in & a few pairs of borrowed (clean!) knickers. At some point, some of the girls hit upon the idea of taking me shopping for new clothes. So there I was, the reluctant focus of an entourage of five or six ecstatic shoppers with the (male) tutor – who would be footing the bill (these were the days before I had a credit-card). For some reason, that I have not fathomed to this day, we were also joined by one of the guys on the group. I think he was enjoying witnessing my misery! One of the purchases the gaggle insisted upon was a pair of peach-coloured leggings (this was the early 90s – if that’s a defence). When I wore these for a night-out later that week, it was commented that I looked like I wasn’t wearing any bottoms at all. Lovely!

This experience has permanantly put me off shopping with anyone outside of my immediate family.

One of my knitting buddies at the Swords Knitting group, @Rosiemonstre, told me about her trip to the personal shopper in Arnotts last September. This is a free-service that involved a chat to start with about colour-likes and dislikes; followed by a walk around the department store, picking things up to try on. Then she was “parked” in a changing room trying on about 50 odd things, with the personal stylist looking at most things on @Rosiemonstre. In the end, she bought four items and will go back again to work on her Summer wardrobe.

@JenbearDublin tweeted that she’s been given a voucher to go to the Style Counsel in the Dundrum Shopping Centre. For €65 she will have a private consulation with one of their stylists before being taken for a shopping spree on the mall. Further research suggests that House of Fraser in the Dundrum Shopping Centre also offers a free Personal Shopping service like Arnotts;. Unlike paying for the Style Counsel, the options would be limited to House of Fraser items though.

@Clarabel mailed me about a City Deal offer she came accross: Three-Hour Personal Styling Workshop with Make-Up Demonstration for €65 at Portobello Institute (Value €135). The session would include lessons in personal style management and promised answers to a range of style issues. I would be educated in colour combinations; all washed down with a glass of bubbly. This sounded like just the ticket though I’m a bit wary that it would actually entail being a model for a student as s/he plastered me with make-up and made some fashion-forward suggestions.

Another of my Swords Knitting buddies, @MariaCGray, lent me two of her books about style and how to build your wardrobe. One of the books accompanies Trinny& Susannah’s “What Not To Wear” TV series on the BBC. The other “Instant Style” gets you to fill out a work-sheet. I guess it’s like the chat part of the personal shopper/stylist constulation.

Now I’m quite confused about what I should do:

While I’ve started to look at  the books @MariaCGray gave me, I’m feeling a little over-whelmed. Surprising as it may seem, I’m so devoid of the basic information on the subject I’m reminded of what it would be like to try to spin yarn with only a book to guide me. I need a lesson! I need someone who knows about these things to take me in hand and explain it in person.

The image consultant seems like just such a person. However, though I like the idea of getting someone in to help me weed my wardrobe, I doubt I need to pay someone to – it’s pretty-much all shabby and has got to go! If I went for the Style Counsel or the free personal-shopping services I would save several hundrend €€€ that would be better spent on new clothes.

One of my friends in work helped me set me on the right track before I went off the rails (see what I did there?) Why not go for one of the free-consultations and see how you get on? If you don’t like what’s on offer in their shops, you’re under no pressure to buy. If that gets me no-where, broaden the search by using one of the paid consultants; starting with the Style Counsel. It’s a work-in-progress.

In Memorium

In 2000 my father did a MSc in Organisational Behaviour at the Irish Management Institute (IMI). He was considered by his class to be the student that made the most significant contribution to the class as a whole.  He was described as having tremendous social intelligence and helped all his fellow class members throughout the two years at the IMI. In 2002, just months before he was due to retire, he was diagnosed with an inoperable Lung Cancer. He died 13 months later.

When he died, his class-mates from the OB group wanted to commemorate him. They persuaded Project Management Group (PM), the company my father worked for, to sponsor a Memorial Medal in his name.  A former work-colleague of my father’s, who was also in his OB class, was a key organiser of this and kept the proposal moving forward; although he had left PM at that stage. 

Last December, 10 years on, the Medal (and €1000) was awarded to Derek Fox, who had been nominated by his class to be the person who made the most significant contribution to the 2009 class as a whole for the 2 years at the IMI. My mother was asked to make the presentation and the Professor made a speech to explain the background behind the award. When he referred to my father’s social intelligence he added, as an aside: “I don’t wish to suggest that he didn’t have academic intelligence, he had that too!”

I’m fiercely proud of my Dad for his generosity of spirit; for being generous with his time and his knowledge. Kudos to the IMI for having an award that acknowledges such generosity in a student and to PM for sponsoring the award.

Reach out and help a colleague or a fellow-knitter – it’ll do your heart good!

Muse on Motivation

I returned to work today for the first time since 22nd December last year. I surprised myself by looking forward to going back to work. You know the way, when you’re getting up early, morning after morning; and you just can’t wait for some time off so that you can have a lie-in? Well, I got to the stage of waking up from my lie-in feeling like I was starting the day on the back foot. I began to crave the return of routine. I was starting to get on my nerves, being under my feet like that all day! I had become overcome with inertia; I couldn’t even motivate myself to make New Year’s Resolutions.

I used to get upset with myself if I’d set myself the goal of say, hovering the house; but instead I’d spent the day doing hundreds of other things, including knitting and looking up patterns or discussion on Ravelry. Then I realised a simple truth about human nature:

We do what we want.

I’ve read a few management books about motivation. They talk about employees being motivated by pay or by job satisfaction or promotion opportunities. I haven’t read one yet that recognises the fundamental fact that each of us will do exactly what we want and we will do something we wouldn’t ordinarily want to do but need to do (such as housework, for example) when our need to do it is so strong it makes us want to do it (such as DH is arriving on a flight in an hour and I better cop-on and get the place neatened up!). You could psycho-analyse this as being the battle between the Id and the Super-Ego. Or you could just get the Dyson out and get on with it!

I had a great list of things to do at the start of last week: re-organise our utility room; draw-up a scope of works to give Builders to price for the demolition works; contact the local Nursing Home. DH was away on business and the kids were starting back at school but I was still off work; so it was a great opportunity to get stuck into a few jobs. What did I do instead? Join Twitter!

The recent cold-snap we had here last week didn’t help my productivity levels either. We’re just not used to freezing temperatures in this country. With a light dusting of snow the country comes to a standstill. With the snow and ice lasting for a few days; widespread panic set in. It was actually fun to be on Twitter and witness the chaos unfold, minute by minute; line by line:

Early Saturday morning someone tweeted that the local council would shut off the water from 3p.m. to 9a.m. the following morning. I couldn’t believe that to be true: 3a.m. might have been feasible, perhaps. However, it had been heard on a radio news bulletin and within seconds it was all over the net.

Two hours later news bulletins were tweeted that the local council denied that they would switch of the water supplies.

Human nature, being as it is, by that time everyone had probably bathed all their children, and themselves, and then filled the bath and any other vessel they could find with water.

Did the Council switch the water off on Saturday? No.

And what happened to all the water stock-piled in panic? It was all probably poured down the drain when it was realised that it wasn’t needed. (We don’t pay water-rates in Ireland – no-one really realises how expensive treated water is.)

Now that there’s a thaw, what are we facing? Burst pipes, water leakages and reduced levels in our reservoirs.

The local council are blaming a spike in demand on Saturday for the reduced levels of treated water available and now have no option but to cut water supply.

Being back at work means I have to get back into a routine. With the level of self-discipline that maintaining the routine requires, I’ll find it easier to say no to myself. So less tweeting from me; less night-owl “twit-to-who”s. Instead, more early-bird specials please. Or that would be my New Year’s Resolution… if I wanted to make one!