The Work-Life-Juggle

We freelancers have heard it all before: Oh, I wish I had your schedules! How awesome to decide for yourself when you want do what! How cool to have no boss! I envy you your flexibility! You’re such a great mom to always have time for your kids … That’s one perspective, certainly, and it’s also true. All of the above is wonderful.

The other side of the coin is that at some point I firmly kissed the concept of separating work, life, kids, chores, relationship and ultimately leisure time goodbye. Many of my nights after the kids have gone to bed are spent catching up with work – simply because I needed to go pick up someone from school, take the car to the shop, grocery shop, meet with a teacher, cook … that kind of thing. Not that I really mind. I like my work, and I can concentrate really well at night. But the price I pay is that there’s no clearly structured work time or free time left – just the big, jumbled, colorful mess of my life, day by day. That’s the way it is, and for now, I don’t see how it’s going to change.

Some people actually plan their yoga classes, their me-time and their date nights as if they were business appointments. I’ve never really managed to do that. Most of my non-negotiable time-frame is down to school schedules and kids‘ activities (ballet class, swim meet, parent-teacher conference, but also the alarm at 6.25 a.m. – which I certainly struggle with sometimes, as a natural night owl). And of course there’s deadlines.

Sometimes I envy the planners. My husband is like that, for instance. Since he’s a producer, that works in his and his colleagues‘ favor, no doubt. It probably reduces stress if you have a slot for everything you do. But doesn’t it also cut down on the actual perks of being self-employed? The joy of deciding for yourself whether you actually feel like getting dressed now or would rather be working in your PJs this morning? To having the flexibility to go for a run, sit down with a coffee, take the kids out for fro-yo because the weather is so gorgeous, have a cup of tea with a friend who drops in – that kind of thing?

As you can probably tell, I’m not sure which is better. It sometimes seems the excel file people get more done than I do. But when I try to excel-file every little thing I do for the whole family construct during the day (wipe those counters, do a load of laundry, buy the kids new sneakers, do a quick groceries run), it seems that I do get a ton of stuff done. Maybe it’s just a different way of going about things. Like using mind-maps rather than lists.

Maybe for me, it’s OK to not break up my day in certain zones that get assigned certain purposes or activities. Maybe I get enough me-time anyway (by writing here instead of getting my butt to the post-office to mail out the book I’ve just finished  proofing ;-). Or by trying out a few Scandinavian knitting motifs that were in that book yesterday over lunch – check it out:

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They’re cute, aren’t they? My fingers were positively itching while I was reading, and I simply couldn’t resist trying my hand at them. There’s also horses, owls, reindeer … birdies, beautiful. And sooo easy to make, even though you absolutely need to follow the instructions to the tee, or you’ll be screwed. Or rather your motif will be.

I started out with the kitty, for my daughter. Then I saw that pig and needed to make it. Oddly, in the pattern it only had two legs, so out of pity I made it two more (easy to do when you understand the pattern). So at least that piggy will have perfect balance, right?

And then my son came home from school and asked for what he dubbed a ‚werewolf‘. Roaar. I think it looks more like a sheepdog, personally.

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Yup, pop culture doesn’t stop even for Swedish crafts. But that is one whole other blog post.

So, the work-life-thing. I’d dearly love to hear about your take on this, reader friends. It doesn’t bother me, but doesn’t not bother me either. It’s, as the wordpress template calls it, ‚on my mind‘. A work in progress. It may be helpful to know how you people do it!

 

 

 

Sleepy Weekend

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Does this photo look as peaceful to you as it does to me? Whenever I set foot on our property in the country, I instantly feel happy, calm and serene. Whether it’s the fresh air, all that green or the knowledge that I just need to dump my bag, put on my running shoes and cross the street to go here

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I’m not sure. But even if I only make a cup of coffee and choose to sit here instead and be lazy,

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I feel Zen :-).

I took my friend B and her kids (a teenage girl and über-cute baby boy) with me for the weekend. We spent a lot of time outdoors, despite the chill. But you can feel how Nature’s raring to go… just a few more drops of rain and rays of sunshine, and we’ll be there.

After a long walk, we lit the wood-burner, made lasagna and drank lots of ginger and elder flower tea. And since I’ve been asked about my lasagna, here’s how I make this iconic Italian dish – certainly not rocket science, but 30 years of practice that have taught me stuff.

Lasagna My Way

For 4 helpings, you will need

300-400 g ground beef

3 shallots, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 carrot, finely diced

1 celery stick, finely diced

Handful of parsley, chopped

Oregano, 1 TSP

1 bay leaf

Glass of red wine

1/2 TSP cinnamon

1 TBSP sugar

2 cans of tomatoes

Olive oil

Salt, pepper, chili flakes to taste

The above is your Bolognese sauce. (Chop veg, fry meat with onions & garlic, deglaze with wine, add other veg and herbs, tomatoes, bit of water and spices and bring to a soft boil. Stew for 1 hour min. Check the seasoning and liquid. It may need more salt, sugar or cinnamon, you know the drill. It shouldn’t be too thick, as the lasagna sheets need some liquid to soak up.)

For the béchamel, you will need

Approx. 50 g butter

3-4 TBSP flour

500 ml milk

Freshly ground nutmeg

Salt & pepper to taste

It’s a very simple thing to make béchamel sauce. Melt the butter in a large pan. Add flour and gently let it froth up a bit, then pour on milk and add spices. Stir with a flat wire whisk. Don’t oversalt, and use pepper sparingly. You want a thick, silky texture, and a soft, buttery, rich and creamy nutmeg-y taste that adds its subtle but distinct flavor to the very dominant Bolo. You can add cream if you feel naughty, it’s certainly not going to hurt the flavor if you do, but since I’m trying to watch those calories, I try to go easy on the cream where it’s not an absolute necessity.

1 pack of lasagna sheets

3 handfuls freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Maybe a dash of milk

A deep square-shaped ovenproof dish

For assembling the lasagna, line up your ingredients: Bolo sauce, Béchamel sauce, lasagna sheets, cheese, olive oil. Start with a few splashes of oil to the bottom of your dish. Place a layer of lasagna sheets on top, trying to cover the bottom as best you can. Break the sheets up and create a noddle-based jigsaw puzzle if you have to. Ladle some Bolo on top, then some Béchamel, then sprinkle with cheese. Repeat the process until you’ve used up your Bolo sauce. Finish with a layer of lasagna sheets and top it off with your last Béchamel and the rest of your grated cheese. Put in the oven at medium heat for 40 minutes. Check the consistency, and pour a dash of milk on top if it seems too dry. You want a juicy lasagna, right? Enjoy :-).

While we were cooking, the children were working on this:

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They’re a bunch of 5 girls, and as you can see they did a fine job of building a little hut of their own in the woods! They even thought of using string rather than nails to fix everything, so no wild animals would hurt themselves on rusty iron. We were really proud of them! They came back happy, tired and with a sense of accomplishment :-). My daughter had 2 helpings of lasagna that night!

Have a good week, everyone, and let me know if the lasagna recipe worked for you guys.

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IMG_3367 Sooo, back in the saddle after 2 weeks in the country. They were filled with:

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cooking

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coloring Easter eggs

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playing board games

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walks & talks with friends

some crochet (another baby blanket, for a sweet friend in Frankfurt who’s expecting a little girl this week!)

… and the blissful absence of an alarm ;-).

We had friends staying with us for a week, and everybody had a good time, I think. We tried to spend as much time outdoors as we could, despite the godawful weather. Of course the last few days were gorgeous, now we’ve had to return to school duties. Go figure.

To me, one of the perks of the few precious vacation weeks per year is the time I get to spend with my kids. Especially with my teenage son, whom I don’t get to really talk to anymore as much as I’d like to – about stuff other than the topics that also concern his baby sister (ice cream, games, all things glitter, math problems).

Growing up today seems so different from what I was used to when I was his age. Most of what I liked then earned me the disapproving side-eye: Science Fiction, Rocky Horror, thrift shop clothes, sad-pants mooning over the same boy my best friend liked … it was pretty clear who was on which side. Parents were obnoxious, and all we wanted was to be left in peace and do our teenage thing without being nagged at for messing up our rooms (again).

Now I’d be lying if I pretended to actually like Dubstep (I don’t!), but there is a lot of common musical ground there even without it, and that’s great. Superhero shows, films, anime, crafts, baking, cooking. I like the way my son dresses, I like most of his friends, and he doesn’t mind PDA – which I detested when I was 14. He doesn’t seem to be embarrassed by us, astonishingly, not yet anyway.

But how hard is it for teenagers today to actually detach from their parents? What do we even fight about? What conflicts do we have, if they have no eating disorder or drug addiction? It’s probably more difficult to dislike us, our values, our lifestyle, than it was for us when we were young. But they do need to find something, as it’s such an integral part of personal growth. They can’t stay kids forever, can they. Maybe 14’s a bit early to expect it, but eventually they will have to find some way to disagree with us. I’ve been bracing for this for a while now. Don’t get me wrong, I’m cherishing and enjoying the closeness as long as I’m getting it, but I’m also hyper-aware that it’s not going to last forever, and there will be something even our super mellow boy can rebel against.

And then, just a few days ago, there was a big fat something. If you’re even vaguely familiar with YouTube culture, you may have come across the term ‚roofing‘ before. It’s actually similar to rock climbing, in a way: These crazy kids climb tall buildings simply ‚because they’re there‘, to quote famous British mountaineer George Mallory who answered this when he was asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest ;-).

It seems to be a very popular activity in Russia, where roofing in its extreme form consists of getting on rooftops as high up as skyscrapers. The ‚roofer‘ will maybe take a picture and post it online. But ultimately fame isn’t what it’s about. It’s about reclaiming a part of our urban environment. It’s about seeing things from a unique perspective. It’s about sitting up there contemplating and reveling in your solitude. One sympathizes. However – and there’s a gigantic However: If you’re the mom of one of these people, you’re going to have a fit. Right? Even if they’re just getting on a two-story building, you’ll be wigging out. Right?

I had a hard time trying to stay cool about this. I read up on it, and tried to understand the fascination – not easy if you’re scared of heights as I am (ironic, I know!), and I do think I get it. But, oh dear.

So, after ruminating on the issue for a while, and discussing it with my husband, I made up my mind. I wasn’t going to forbid it (pointless anyway, as I don’t shuttle the boy around anymore, nor do I want to). So I asked my young rebel for three things: One, don’t do anything crazy. Be as safe as you possibly can. No damn skyscrapers, Jeez. Two, wear really well-fitting sneakers that are better suited for this kind of thing than the ever-present Jordans. Three, take pictures, and freaking talk to me about every single one of these adventures.

Does my approach make me an irresponsible parent? Maybe. On the other hand, I do trust my kid. I trust his judgment. He’s fast, he’s resourceful, and he’s not going to be reckless. Still, I’m going to be praying a little more than usual, I’m not going to lie.

Signing off with two pictures of feet today, with 13 wonderful years in between.