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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Getting Organized, Step 5: create schedules and deadlines

"Diary of a mad bride" and "diary of a mad mom-to-be" by Laura Wolf are among my favorite books.

Amy, the leading woman, is a magazine editor, who is getting slightly obsessed about her upcoming life changes and is trying to get a grip by setting up and following checklists.


It's been a while I have read them, though. Since becoming a mom myself, there hasn't been much time for reading. Still I remember that I liked them. One of the reasons was because my theory got confirmed: checklists are fine and all, but


Now there is nothing wrong with checklists!

I created some myself at my first job as a Human Resources Assistant: things to do for employees who are joining or leaving the company. 

If you have a bunch of those every month, you need to keep track of what you have done already and what still remains to do: send out employment agreement, apply for work visa, register with social security, arrange PC login, enroll in first day orientation, order flowers, and so on.

A nice side effect of checklists is, you get to check every activity when they are done! 
So if it is hard for you to get motivated in the mornings, here's a tip for you:

You can never go wrong with that one!
So checklists are great. For specific jobs - for example in the aviation business -  they are even a must and have to get signed by the person who did the work plus by their supervisor.

Now on to schedules and deadlines.

This is where I start squirming. I am a results-oriented person, and I do get things done on time. I think I work best, yet not free from slips of the pen, under pressure. But I hate to commit to be doing activity A at 9:15, and activity B at 9:45. What if I get a phone call between A and B? I will be late for B, and being late feels like failing! And let's be honest: what if I just don't feel like doing A at all today? 

Of course I make and follow schedules. In my head - like when I am in the kitchen! What time do I need to start making pizza dough if we want to have dinner at 6:30pm? 

One more thing about schedules: Apart from the obvious "calendar", I like to use the "task" function in Outlook. Wonderful tool so nothing gets forgotten. Even more wonderful, you can "remind me again" over and over - maybe it gets done without my lifting a finger? It happens, right? Habit no. 6 "don't procrastinate" might bite me at some point.

Also I am a structured person up to a certain point. I like to color code. Green poly pockets for candidates I want to invite for an interview; yellow ones for "need more info / maybe" and red poly pockets for applicants who get a "thank you, but no, thank you".
I hate making process flow-charts. Why would I spend time drawing boxes and labeling them with "yes" and "no"? Seriously. 
Telephone order process? Keep it simple! 1: pick up phone. 2: order

And then the 1.1 and 1.1.1 thing:

1: start project - duh, you really like to cross that one off your list, huh?
1.1: create project title - preferably Latin or Greek name with really meaningful analogy
1.1.1: organize brainstorming meeting (In-house? Convention center? Budget?) invite participants - should person X be there, although he isn't fluent in BS Bingo*?

Just call it what it is and get the h*** started!!!

*BS Bingo instructions

This post is also about setting and reaching goals.

Another thing I don't like to committ to. I am not talking about the nice things of course. Maybe I should make it a goal to spend at least half an hour on Facebook every morning?

But the dreaded jobs that just won't go away!

I have made it my goal to declutter our living room by September 14 - that's the day of Colin's birthday party. It is so annoying to see the mess in the background of the pictures!

One task is to get rid of the bottles. The wedding gift (sparkling) wine bottles. They have been sitting - standing actually - on the wall unit for nine years, collecting dust and probably rotting. 


So this is the timeline I've come up with. Actually I wrote it AFTER I was done. And you know what? Had I prepared the timeline before, there would have been only steps 1,2 and 6. How was I supposed to know that steps 3 - 5 plus 7 would come up? Timelines are so theoretical!

Deadline is "whenever I'm done, I have no idea how long it's gonna take me, OK?!"
  • Step 1: get the bottles down and put them by the sink a couple of days ahead - as to be forced to deal with them. Optional: get to it right away.
  • Step 2: open them. It sounds like a matter of minutes, and it went really well at first. The Prosecco mini bottles made just a tiny popping sound, and there was no more sparkling or frothing, but some ugly smelling going on when I poured out the contents. Not the case with the wine bottles. The cork was so dried-out that it crumbled. One solid piece stayed in the bottleneck, the other one stuck on the corkscrew. 
  • Step 3: put both in some water, hoping the moisture would help remove the cork pieces. No progress. Still stuck after a couple of hours. Reminds me of childbirth. Is anyone experienced in the wine bottle C-Section procedure?

  • Step 4: post on FB. Someone points out the obvious: "if you are not going to drink it, why don't you try and push the cork back into the bottle?" Genius, why didn't I think of that myself?
  • Step 5: poke and prod around with a knife until some pieces tumble down and others come spattering towards my hair, face and white T-Shirt - red wine included!
  • Step 6: pour and rinse
  • Step 7: repeat steps 5 and 6 - only with a different corkscrew, as the regular one doesn't fit onto this specific bottleneck. It's good to have so many tools in the messy drawer!
All done!
How did it come to that, you might ask? Why were they hanging on to those bottles for so long?

When we got married, we had everything we needed in our household, and there's people who mean well but don't like to give money, so we got decorative candles, mugs with fun imprints, glass bowls, you name it. Some are in use, others broke,... 

The bottles looked nice, and we displayed them until a special occasion would come up and I could drink them. Yes, my husband doesn't like alcoholic beverages, and (back when I was single) I made it a rule not to drink alone. When there was finally something to celebrate and make an exception to the rule, I was pregnant and couldn't drink. Then I was too busy preparing milk bottles. Fast-forward a couple of years, and the wine bottles are still here gone (Bottles? - Check!) 

We had set up a wish list on our wedding website - containing items for our honeymoon
Our family and friends wired money for our various adventure trips, accommodation and dinners, and we had a wonderful (and totally clutter-free) time in Australia. 

And I'll leave you for now - sharing some of those unforgettable memories:

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Getting Organized, Step 3: stock up on organizational gear

One of the reasons that our house is a mess, apart from the obvious fact that we have too much stuff, is that we lack built-it closets and other functional furniture to store our things. 

I was talking about our shoe cabinet not meeting my criteria. 
So today I found those before and after pictures. Genius! Just mine would definitely need to have a door!


And for those who buy shoes in every color I found the ultimate rack:

But this is only online, and in real life I frankly have no idea where to find storage solutions that help me effectively. 

There is no "Container Store" in Switzerland. And I am not talented enough to custom-make what I need. The only carpenter I know has just moved to Canada. And the inmates who made the wooden rainbow can't come to our house for obvious reasons.

So I am stuck with plastic boxes. Some are sturdier than others.

Yes, there is a whole in the box!

I took a trip to IKEA - for research purposes only, of course. Not that I had any cheesecake there. There is no cheesecake at IKEA, right? 

While I was there, my friend and I were messaging silly comments back and forth and had a blast.

    I need that much closet space, then I can be organized!

When I picked Colin up at Småland, a dad just dropped off his daughter. I convinced him to put the sticker on his pants, too. Hahaha, I may not have found a great shoe rack - but I started a new fashion trend!

I found it interesting to see that the sales people at IKEA have the same problem with the shoe racks that I have. And they still have to sell them. 

How are ladies supposed to store boots? 

IKEA is a Swedish Company, and surely Swedish women wear boots?

A couple of days later I went to Pfister, a traditional furniture house. They carry nice shoe cabinets, price range 2,000!?! So the shoe issue remains unsolved for now. 

Let's move on to other areas that need organizational gear. BTW - google that term and you'll find this:

I am happy to show you at least one really useful, organizational thing I have recently bought which I am really happy about. Everybody has electronic devices, right? And even if they work wireless and with batteries they need electricity from time to time. And of course every gadget has a different connection and cord which leads to a wire disorder. Not anymore on my desk - I've got a cable box:

OK, you can still see the cords on the floor :-(
Kitchen time! While I wouldn't mind having a nice pantry with matching containers, I have to prioritize my efforts, so I leave my sugar, flour, cornmeal, etc. in their original packaging where the expiration date is printed on and close them with those fasteners:

Here's an idea I discovered on a parenting forum platform. Sophia who is going on vacation and will be living in a rental apartment, filled her favorite herbs and spices in tic tac containers and decorated them with masking tape. How clever is that?

There's this drawer inserts that are fine for your regular forks and spoons.

But what am I going to do about the grinder, spatula, corkscrew,..? I was pretty sure the cherry pitter was supposed to be in this drawer. I bought a new one today. Not sure if there are any more cherries left this season, though. 

Let's just say I am prepared for summer 2014. How very organized of me ;-)

If anybody has a great idea on how to organize this drawer - please let me know!

Today I used one of the utensils from this drawer - the mini ice cream scooper -  to make Chef John's world's fastest meatballs.

And with that yummy lunch I leave you for today - until next time!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Farewell, Fischer Family!

While I am waiting for the cinnamon roll dough to rise and Colin and the neighbors' kids are playing peacefully, I want to take the opportunity to write down my thoughts about you guys leaving.

I have known "Annettli" and her brother Alexander for about 30 years, they attended my mother's playgroup, and our families have been friends over the years, visiting each other in Schafisheim and Staufen, enjoying soccer, Schlösslifest, carnival, Jugendfest and other festivities. Pictures by Mirjam Stutz:

Fasnacht then
...and today

There was a bunch of former playgroup families who founded the "Radiesli Club" and we used to meet in the forest for BBQ and hide & seek. 

We grew up, went to school and abroad and occasionally heard about what the other one was doing when our moms bumped into each other. 

At some point Vreni Piel was looking for a job, and she came to see me at the job agency I was working at the time. I sent her to one interview and she got the job!

Once I heard about Annette and Kurt (whom I didn't know back then) getting together while he was in Switzerland and she spent a year in the USA. I could relate very well as my husband and I had a similar story, being separated by the Atlantic Ocean.

Then I heard wedding bells.  (The same year we got married ourselves!) And "A.P." - the woman in red - technically became "A.F." 

Next thing I heard she was expecting a baby, and then I heard about Päuli being born, and that the three of them were going to travel through Alaska. Never too early to raise a little travel bug!

One day - I was pregnant myself - I was waiting for the bus when Annette walked by with her trailer full of branches, leafs and stuff from her garden. In the middle of it with a big smile and an even bigger Schnuddernase (how does that translate? "Lots of snot"?) was sitting little Paul.

I got interrupted by the kitchen timer. Rolls are rising for another half hour. Colin got more suntan lotion and water balloons in every color.

Not only the Fischers were flying back and forth over the big pond. We were also traveling in Pennsylvania and posted this picture. Must have brought back fond memories:

As soon as we came home, it got winter. Even if we didn't see much of each other during the year - the one occasion you could be sure to meet was the setting up of the village Christmas tree event. Last year Colin gave us a scare by disappearing. As it turned out, he was tired of waiting for us and went home. In the dark. All alone.

In January Annette's mother told my mother the Fischer family was going to relocate to Canada. 


I mean, I knew they really, really like the country, and they spent their vacation there all the time and took really nice pictures and even made movies. But leaving for good? Wow!
This called for some details. Over cinnamon rolls.

And now it's time. The moving container is gone already. Got a text message today "we are at the notary's office, selling our house."

I am going to miss greeting Kurt in the morning on our way to work (and even more when we need something fixed like a balcony door or a lock for our tenants) and bumping into Annette and the kids with their bicycles.

I am really bad at goodbyes. So don't be surprised if I just leave your farewell party with a casual "see ya" - because otherwise I will start to cry. And we don't want that. 

I am very happy for you, and we will definitely come and visit you in B.C. - we always like having a good reason to go to Canada!

Until then, we'll just look at pictures from our trips and check Facebook for A.P.'s updates!