How to… Craft Yourself Tidy!

We’ve all hit that problem. We have a book of sewing patterns, 40 shoeboxes and a Pinterest board lined up, full of crafts we want to make. And we also have a house to tidy and keep, work to do or things to mend. So we put everything away, sort the laundry, finish writing that essay or report, darn those socks and finally have no time to craft. Or we put actual work to one side, start making stuff and end up with more scarves than we need and a few hours lost.

Curse you, scarves!

Curse you, scarves!

What if we could seize that creative urge, take some time to relax, improve our house’s organization and feel like no time was wasted at the end?

Well, here to the rescue, I’ve compiled a list of various ways you can make your home neater and prettier, by crafting the organization into your home.

1: Hanging organizers.

The craft.

Take a length of fabric. Sew the edges flat underneath it. Add pockets by stitching the bottom and side of a square to the fabric. Perhaps attach a ribbon or two to hang it with.

The result.

A convenient hanging set of pockets you can put on the back of doors, inside wardrobes or even attach to the wall to keep your small, frequently used items.

Made with an old sheet, a swimming costume and a strip of stripy fabric.

Made with an old sheet, a swimming costume and a strip of stripy fabric.

Made with an old hoodie and some yellow fabric.

Made with an old hoodie and some yellow fabric.

The quick option: buy some shoe organizers and decorate them.

2: Repurpose boxes.

The craft.

Take a small, sturdy box. Cut it to the desired size. Use the offcuts to make some slot-together separators for it. Paint or wrap in pretty paper or fabric.

The result.

A fitted box to keep a set of things in one place and organized. I made Jon one for his contact lenses as I kept moving them when I was tidying and mixing the sets up.

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The quick option: make some separators and use the box as-is.

3: Under-table hammock.

The craft.

Take a piece of fabric and cut it to 3-4″ smaller than the table is from corner to corner. In each corner, attach elastics that are just too small to wrap around the table legs without stretching. Put on table. For tables where you can’t slide something up the legs, swap the elastics for velcro or buttoned straps.

The result.

A convenient place to hide your magazines, recently watched or to-watch DVDs, games controls and remote controls.

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The quick option: attach some elastic to an appropriately sized sheet.

4: Baskets and pots.

The craft.

Not much of a craft, but fun to decorate and organize with. Find a suitable basket or large flower pot. Clean and decorate a little. Use it to store rolled-up towels, or your gloves and hats, for easy access whenever needed. Also use one for assorted car repair materials, for example, or anything else you may need to grab in a rush.

The result.

A prettier way of storing my towels where they are all visible and accessible without being in the way.

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The quick option: take a basket or pot and roll your towels or bedding to fit it. It can’t get much easier. 🙂

5: Grease and sauce pots.

The craft.

Take some glass jars and use permanent marker or sharpie to decorate them and assign their purpose.

The result.

Cute little jars to keep my reusable cooking fats in, sorted by type so the tastes don’t get mixed.

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Lard, olive oil, lamb fat, chicken drippings, tallow.

 

The quick option: rather than draw, use a jar or cup that is already pretty and make sure your handwriting looks nice.

6: Curtain ties.

The craft.

Cut some appropriately toned fabric 2″ longer than you need and twice as wide. Fold and stitch all sides but one end. Turn inside out and invisible stitch the end. Tie curtains back.

The result.

I actually just did the quick option here! The room is more open and brighter with these heavy curtains tied back.

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The quick option: cut a strip of fabric or a length of ribbon for each curtain. Tie back in a bow.

7: Bags.

The craft.

Make a deep base bag and line it. Make many smaller pockets and purses and go attaching them as you see fit. Add a draw string, zips, or buttons. Back straps are harder to make than purse handles are.

The result.

A cute and handy bag to carry around.

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The quick option: make a bucket handbag or a tote.

And some I haven’t made, but want to make when I have the time or a purpose for them.

Make fishy laundry and bathing bags like these.

Make some amazing shelves.

Make some handy baskets and holders for better bathroom organization.

Make a pallet shed organizer.

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FitFriday XVII and FatFriday IV.

Fit.

This week I have kept fairly active, doing workouts on any days when I am not tired and walking whenever possible.

I have generally ate well and avoided too many carbs and my body is already running better, despite the stress.

Managed to eat more red meat and a little more fish, not quite as much fish as I should. Though the Omega3s are still going in and are probably the only reason I haven’t had a mini meltdown every day right now. Well, them and caffeine. Stress-killers.

Loving my figure at the moment. Even in warm, “OK, we’re sleeping now” pajamas, I feel great.

I have been listening to anything that makes me want to dance around the room like a teenager, because I need to get my daily 10k steps and cardio in somehow.

Next week I’m going to keep at the diet, maybe with more carbs in the morning if I work out some more. Also: WEIGHTS. Need to lift more, get my back looking like a rock-climber’s.

Fat.

Best thing I ate was earlier. Sounds gross, tastes divine. Pan caramelized sweet onions and baby peas with leftover BBQ and melted cheese. Naughtiest thing I ate was probably that too. Or possibly having a few Nakd bars at the end of a day. Sure, they’re healthy, but they’re also carbs on a low carb week and at completely the wrong time to cheat.

Been nicely active, but still had a few naps and some general R&R to keep me focused. Lazies away next week. 🙂

Next week I will do everything in my power to avoid crashing and burning because I’m on a roll with being the “SUPERSlavisWife” and I don’t want to mess that up by going all hormoney and depressed and stuff. Omegas, coffee, sleep, weights, low carb and letting the crazies out when it won’t bother anyone or interfere with work.

WWW. BBQ Everything.

Yesterday was dawn til dusk. Tutoring, cleaning, writing, tutoring again, more writing. So, for a quick and easy meal that would still be nice enough to count as a break, I barbequed everything.

Everything.

Everything.

Ingredients:

-a big roast cut, such as whole chicken, pork shoulder joint or lamb leg

-400g mixed veg (we had parsnips, carrots, sprouts and frozen veg to bulk)

-1 sweet onion

-BBQ sauce (Click here for an almost-Paleo, delicious BBQ sauce recipe!) around 1/2 cup

-tomato sauce (ketchup for those with sweeter tastes, tomato puree or passata for those with richer tastes) around 3/4 cup

-powdered paprika

-salt

-honey (optional)

-mustard (strong mustard, also optional)

Utensils:

-a tray deep enough to take all the food

-knife and chopping board

-something for basting

Recipe:

1: Rub the paprika and salt into the meat.

2: Add half the tomato and BBQ.

3: Place in a tray with the sliced onion and cook on a low heat (120-130C) for two hours.

4: Chop the vegetables to uniform size.

5: Remove the tray from the oven and baste the meat in the juices. Rest until warm to touch.

6: Roll the vegetables in the juices with the onion.

7: Add the last of the sauces and baste the meat again before returning to the oven, still at a low heat, for another two hours.

8: Baste one last time and turn the temperature up to 160C to finish off.

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So that’s what we had for dinner yesterday. Tasty, low carb (well, mine was, Jon likes his beans) and although it takes forever to cook, minimal investment in the prep. Win, win, win. 🙂

No sprouts and many beans.

No sprouts and many beans.

I’ll be back tomorrow with FitFriday and on Saturday with some organization crafts so easy and practical that you can relax whilst making them and whilst using them!

Until then, TTFN and Happy Hunting!

Weekend crafts.

This weekend I was going to see a relative, but the plans got thrown off by tonsilitis. So, seeing as I had cancelled all my work for the week and was determined to not overwork myself, I decided to spend this weekend crafting.

First I needed to sort the coffee table. There was nothing horribly wrong with it. But it was plain white and stained crazily easily, which is not great for a table that will have coffee on it. We also invariably forget to use coasters, so having something I could wipe clean was a must.

The only picture where I allowed the table to be seen. It was thoroughly cleaned before that meal, so no shame. :p

The only picture where I allowed the table to be seen. It was thoroughly cleaned before that meal, so no shame. :p

 

That is the original and finished design. I contemplated a lot of things for our coffee table. I even considered painting a detailed scene and setting some glass on top of it. But I didn’t want to make something I would feel too bad about parting ways with if it broke. So I settled on a boho glass pebble top.

The materials for this were a variety of glass pebbles and grout and filler plaster.

1: Arrange your pebbles by colour. That way you have an idea what you’re going to be able to do with them.

2: Clean and dry the table.

3: Mark out any spaces you want to leave. We wanted a gap for our chess board that we could slide it in and out of.

4: Little by little, spread the grout and/or plaster and place the pebbles in the right pattern.

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I ran out of pebbles so I left the middle almost bare except for some floral coasters and a few pebbles.

The finished product looks pretty awesome and should clean smoothly.

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The other thing I made was an upgraded version of my knitting loom. The original looked like this.

Ugly and efficient.

Ugly and efficient.

 

I made some pretty cool scarves on it.

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But it had too few spikes, was starting to fall apart and was bulky to carry and use. So I decided to make something more portable, attractive and functional. Introducing the loom 2.0:

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Yes, that is a coat rack. I got so used to the knitting needle ends that stuck out of the back of my box that I felt I needed something to stab my wool balls onto, rest my crochet hook on and tie the loose end of wool to. So a coat hanger seemed like the natural choice. Plus, it was a ready-sanded piece of wood for 99p.

To make:

-10-100 round-end or skirting board nails

-30-100cm of wood

-a hammer

-a ruler and a marker pen

1: Use the ruler to mark the board at even places.

2: Hammer in the first three nails and last three nails at an angle. This will hold your board.

3: Hammer in the central nails deal straight, for easy weaving.

To use click here.

WWW AND FitFriday XVI, FatFriday III.

Rolling them all into one as I’ve been crazily busy and forgot to write the WWW.

This Wednesday we had a fish pie with white sauce and cheddar potato topping, followed by a citrus pudding.

Fish Pie.

Ingredients:

(serves 4)

-500g chopped fish of various sorts (we used smoked mackerel, cod, salmon, pollock and mussels)

-300ml single cream

-200ml milk

-300g potatoes, peeled

-50g cheddar

-20g butter

Utensils:

-baking tray

-chopping board and knife

Recipe:

1: Dice the fish into roughly equal sized pieces. Place in the tray.

2: Dust with salt, pepper and a dash of vinegar.

3: Pour the milk and cream over the top.

4: Pre-heat the oven to 200C with the fish inside as you prepare the topping.

5: Thinly slice the potatoes, rub with butter.

6: Once the oven is to temperature, remove the fish and layer the potatoes on top of the fish. Consider thickening the sauce with a little flour or rice flour first.

7: Bake until the potato is golden.

8: Add the cheese and cook until melted.

As a side note, white sauces really are a brilliant thing. They can be made intently, on the stove, to a very precise recipe or quickly, as I did here, to stew a pie mix or meat in. They are an excellent base for chowder, carbonara, cauliflower cheese, fish pie, mashed potato, etc. Simple, rich and flavourful.

white sauce

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Citrus Pudding.

Jon wasn’t quite so keen on this one, but maybe with a little more sugar or a banana blended in, it would suit sweeter tooths as well.

Ingredients:

-1 lime

-1 lemon

-1 orange

-200g plain flour

-100g extra thick cream

-25g sugar

Utensils:

-grater

-knife and chopping board

-mixing bowl and spoon

-blender

-greased/nonstick baking tray or ceramic oven-proof pot

Recipe:

1: Mix the dry ingredients. Grate in the zest of the fruits.

2: Stir in the cream.

3: Blend in the pulp of the fruit, careful to cut out any pith.

4: Add water until runny.

5: Bake at 200C until a skin has formed.

FitFriday.

My workouts are being reintegrated and I’m fitting in some high intensity exercises between jobs and classes, as well as some walking.

I am back at my ideal figure and keeping low carb to protect against water weight, which I’m very sensitive to accumulating when stressed.

The evening primrose oil and b-complex vitamins have been swapped for half the maximum dosage (and 1.5 times the recommended dosage) of Omega 3 oils. It seems the omegas were what I was responding to anyway. I also doubt its placebo effect as the symptoms worsen when I forget to take them before I’ve remembered I haven’t had them for a few days. All pointing towards cyclothymia, so I’ll pester the GP about that sometime soon.

I plan to eat more red meat and fish and further keep my carb intake minimal, but my stretch marks have gone red again, which means I need to up my calories to not lose any more weight. Methinks raw beef and more nuts are in order.

FatFriday.

This week the best thing I ate was organic raw minced beef. I was just craving it like crazy and it tasted amazing once I had some.

The naughtiest thing I ate was a creamy hot chocolate made largely with cream and melted chocolate squares.

I haven’t really been all that lazy this week and I can’t wait for some solid sleep tonight and a lazy-ish weekend away.

Next week plenty of veg and meat and rest.

Not quite back to normal. Becoming the main earner.

Well, I’m finally back to blogging after the holidays, but hardly back to normal. Which is because I’m going from post holiday cleanup and crazy earning to becoming the breadwinner. Yes, I’m still me. No, I haven’t gone crazy. Yes, I want to still work towards housekeeping and children. And no, I’m not doing this because I desperately wanted to prove a point of some sort.

The fact of the matter is, Jon didn’t particularly like his previous job and I didn’t particularly like seeing what it did to him. He’s retrained, but there will be an earning gap between leaving the bad job and building the good one. We have enough money to live off for several months without earning a penny, but I hate spending savings and we were thinking of using some of that to afford me a maternity leave of sorts after I’ve had the first baby.

So, instead, I will be bringing the money home to support us and not touch our savings at all.

As someone who is self-employed as a tutor, I am going to set about this a little differently to most people. I can’t just take a paycheck for granted. I have in-person tutoring work which will still take up some of my time, but as it doesn’t pay as well I will be reorganizing my students to the mornings. Instead, I will prioritize online tutoring of American, Japanese and Chinese students, which pays better, but involves afternoon and evening work. I will also, in my spare time, continue writing essays, novels, children’s books and the likes, as well as translating for several companies on my books. I will try my hardest to not turn down any work at all.

Jon has offered to help with some of the more menial housework, like washing up, laundry and the likes. However as the end goal is to get him back to where he was, and not to make me the main earner full time, his work takes priority. If we miss out on an afternoon’s earnings because the cooking and hoovering needed doing and he was at a shift, then the fact he’s getting back into work matters more than thirty or fifty pounds.

And we know this is going to be tough. Even in relationships where the woman wants to earn and the man wants to keep house, relationship breakdown can happen after they switch roles. It’s a change of dynamic that just doesn’t feel right to many people.

We do, however, have some fundamental advantages over people who start this expecting to lie back and enjoy the benefits. For example, we both know what we want and what each other wants.

I don’t want to be the main earner. I want to be in charge of things I’m more comfortable doing, bring home the fun money with little obligation besides my minimal £50/week, settle into saving his earnings and having babies and animals.

He doesn’t want to be my dependent. He wants to be in charge of thing’s he’s more comfortable doing, bring home the bread and know where everything is coming from, come home to an orderly house, a good meal and a loving family.

And knowing this helps. Knowing that we both desire to return to the old way ASAP makes it easier. There are no fears that I will decide I want to work and not have children, or that he will decide I earn enough and become a house-husband. Because our desires are out in the open. We like what we’ve done until now and we can’t wait until we get back to it.

On the other hand, not worrying about each other has also made us aware of our and each other’s vulnerabilities. Which isn’t actually a bad thing.

I have never 100% supported myself. I probably could, but I never wanted, had or managed to. From parents, to benefits, to student loans, to Jon, I have always had something I can rely on, a background income that supports me and that I can fall back on if I mess up. Not so here. I must reliably bring in £900/month at least to support us. Which isn’t so awful, but is very scary as a first-time situation, especially as I am going from being supported to doing the supporting.

Jon hasn’t been unemployed since he was 14. He always had the opportunity to choose parental care, benefits and loans over his own blood, sweat and tears, but he never wanted it. He did his very best to rely on as few people as possible. And for the first time in a decade and a half, he is having to rely on someone for financial support. He has to trust me to bring money home without a guaranteed paycheck, to cover our basics and hand him the money he needs without causing a fuss.

We are both going from the known into the unknown, and however much anyone else has worked or not worked, no matter how much our situation is anyone else’s everyday, we are making ourselves vulnerable by walking into an unfamiliar situation.

And all of this makes trust absolutely implicit. You can’t do this without trust. And not the “Sups told me online that trust is vital to financial wellbeing, so you have to just trust me” kind. I mean the actual, observable kind. Think back to when you did that “trust fall” game in school, scouts or even at work. If someone dropped you, caught you and dropped you or refused to let you catch them, people became distant towards them. In principle, it was more of an empathy test than a teamwork test, but the results hold true for anyone. If you fell and someone didn’t catch you, why are you going to throw yourself down when they’re the only one who can break your fall?

We had an incident that briefly scared Jon. I am paranoid about money. Won’t spend a penny if no money’s going in, work on budgeting to save fractions of costs, will deprive myself of things I want if it involves using a card or breaking a large note, won’t trust myself with credit or loans. Paranoid. I’m a person who saves two grand a year on welfare and one grand over Christmas. Which is why I’m writing a money-saving book. But also why I hesitated when it was my turn to get £70 out of the bank to replenish the at-home cash funds. Just for a moment. Just because I hadn’t worked much over the holidays and was wondering how the account was holding up, whether all the students had paid, etc. And he was scared. Because, no matter how normal it is for me to hesitate at the idea of breaking into my account, he was already in a state of concern and he can’t read my mind to divine what the hesitation was. At that moment I, as the soon-to-be-primary-earner was refusing him, in a position of vulnerability, the resources he needed. And that worried him. He was falling and didn’t see how I could catch him. After talking it through, we went to check my account to make sure the money was still doing fine and to get out the notes we needed. Once I had seen the amount, told him how much it had gone up by thanks to December payments and given him the notes, it was on the mend. He had fallen and I had caught him. But that is the sort of trust this requires. Not just promises or hugs: hard, physical evidence of trust in each other.

With all that in mind, am I worried? Absolutely, even if a lot less than when we first discussed this. I’d be crazy if I wasn’t. I feel like when I first moved house. “I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m going to mess this up. I need an adult!” But it’ll work out. And at least we know what the hurdles will be when we come to them.

In order to make sure we do well, my goals are:

-make £900/month minimum

-keep the house in order when Jon’s busy

-keep patient with Jon, even if both of us are feeling insecure and neither of us can offer the other proper support at times

-remind myself this is temporary and keep focused on when we’ll be back to normal and able to relax again

Anyway, due to all this the blogging may be hit and miss, but I’ll try my hardest to keep it, like the housework and general socializing, at least at a normal level.

Here’s to a busy New Year and semi-frequent updates on how I do as the main earner!

New Year Objectives.

First lets review last year’s objectives.

My tangible goals for this first year of self-improvement were:

1: Be fluent in French.

I met this objective. My French is to a level I can consider fluent, although I will always strive to perfect it. I can now work tutoring, translating and writing in French, as well as enjoy French news, films and novels.

2: Speak at least GCSE standard German.

I missed this objective by quite a margin, so I will recycle it this year. I started strong, but got waylaid as I delved into work and other objectives and my German level hasn’t really moved since May.

3: Get to a point where my artwork is selling.

I only just met this objective by selling a couple of paintings and scoring three ghostwriting deals in the past month. Gods bless the internet.

4: Get to a point where my tutoring is providing the £50-100/week minimum I should contribute.

Objective met, hugely exceeded and I’m really glad it was, seeing as I may be the main earner for a few months in the New Year. Hoping Jon will find his feet quickly and get a new paycheck soon, but anything could go wrong, so I’ll need to keep earning around £300-500/week to keep us steady. In early January it may be hard, but from February it will definitely be back to usual earnings.

5: Get my garden and chicken-keeping started.

The garden has been kept beautiful, though it’s a bit dead and snowed under at the moment. The flowers are very attractive and I look forward to their return in the New Year. We got a great harvest of parsnips, broccoli, lettuce, herbs, beans and radishes and a moderate harvest of tomatoes, potatoes and courgettes. Heavens know what happened to the beets, swedes, pumpkins, melons and peppers, though! Despite the illness that took the flock, I have learned a lot about keeping laying hens and look forward to getting some pullets late next Spring.

6: Finish writing two books.

Not really met. I finished my novel and started the second book. And my guide to economizing is about 2/3 there. Haven’t started my book on beginners housekeeping yet. I’ve written a few children’s books, but that hardly counts.

7: Deadlift, squat and shrug my bodyweight.

Objective not met. My deadlift died a death when I started getting back tension that wrecked my form, but I’ll try again soon. Last I did them they were at 35/65kg for doubles. Squats are at 40/65kg for doubles at the moment. Shrugs are not on the rota right now, but are at 45/65kg for sets of five.

My less tangible goals for this first year of self-improvement were:

1: Keep fit and healthy.

Met. I have maintained my body weight, increased my weightlifting and flexibility, lost some fat and even decreased my WHR by shrinking my waist and “gaining” in the chest and hip areas. I’ve been generally eating well, even if I abuse carbs and coffee from time to time, have eaten plenty of organic vegetables, fresh meat, some game, own produce and foraged fruit. Almost every single meal has been cooked from scratch. As a percentage, well under 1% of meals were not made by me and under 5% included pre-prepared sauces or products containing dubious substances.

2: Learn as many skills as possible pertaining to running a home.

Met. I can now: darn, knit, bake, make jam, make pickles, make chutney, grow various plants, keep hens, keep a cat, clean a car, light and cook in a fire, control mold outbreaks, iron, hand-wash, bleach things, scent a house, cut and dry kindling and logs, make useful bags and household items, coupon shop, make compost and hold dinner parties. A total of 23 new relevant skills.

3: Be as self-sufficient as possible.

Met. We supplies our own eggs, greens, potatoes and beans. Soon I will not have touched benefits in a year. I have earned my keep through housework and paid my keep in moneyed work.

4: Read whenever possible.

Not fully met. I have had chances to read that I have used watching animes, documentaries or films whilst crafting.

5: Paint whenever possible.

Not fully met. I have slacked a bit in the past few months. Although general crafting has been continually productive.

6: Experiment more in the kitchen.

Met. I have worked out several ways of making Paleo baked goods, of keeping the WWW interesting, of using a roast or reusing leftovers. I have made my own chocolates and oat bars for Jon.

7: Keep the house in order and Jon happy throughout.

Seeing as this was something that wasn’t really for me (well, not directly), I am asking Jon to rate it out of 10 and add his commentary.

“House in order would be a 9/10. There have been times when we have been busy, but other than that it’s always been in order. She has kept me happy to the best of her ability, but with the issues I’ve had with work and health it must have been a difficult job.”

That gives me a total of 9/14 goals met, or 64%. Obviously the unmet goals are mostly at 50% completion, not 0%, but it wouldn’t be right to count them as successes. And 50+% success isn’t bad at all.

So, with everything in mind, what are my goals for the new year?

Tangible goals:

1: Make £50/day, 6 days a week minimum so as to keep us supported until Jon gets his first new paycheck.

2: Finish “On a Budget” and write “The Beginner’s Guide to Housekeeping”. Self-publish both.

3: Speak at least GCSE level German.

4: Get certified as a native speaker of Spanish and a fluent speaker of French.

5: Deadlift, squat and shrug my bodyweight before I’m pregnant.

6: Continue to adhere to my #NoNothingNovember challenge.

7: Establish the eBay shop once Jon’s back at work and I’m pregnant. No upper limit, but would like to break £50/week in profits at least.

Less tangible goals:

1: Work towards TTC, prepare for the baby and learn about basic childcare.

2: Try and avoid buying most things new. Make, grow, buy second hand, barter/trade, buy in a charity shop. Always consider the cheap options before buying anything.

3: Grow and forage more plants than last year. Document growing and foraging.

4: Keep the blog as active as possible.

5: Read or craft whenever possible.

6: Continue attending events and clubs and holding dinner parties as soon as we’re stable enough.

7: Keep the house in order and Jon happy throughout.

As stated on the objectives page, there is no minimum number of goals I must achieve. It’s just a list of things to give my life direction and make the most of the year ahead. These objectives will not change, but if anything interferes with them I may postpone them or prioritize another one. Hopefully I can exceed this year’s 9/14. 🙂