Dreams Do Come True

Name That Shakespeare Play!

Name That Shakespeare Play! (Photo credit: Tracy Lee)

Intro to Organizing -101

I have a sign that says “Dreams…do come true” casually propped up on a bookshelf in my library/office/dining room/really, really messy, messy room. Over the doorway of the same room is a quilted homespun sign with this message: “A clean house is the sign of a life misspent.” Suffice to say that I have not misspent my life, at least in the clean house category.

My decades old dream is to become organized. And the fact that I may live for another 40 years, it is a worth pursuing. (Mind you I will be really close to 100 years of age, but they are predicting that we will live longer these days.) I also would like to have a clean house, and finally take down the quilted sign which is brown with age, and curling at one corner in a most unattractive manner.

Let me introduce you to my office, which is one of the rooms in my house that needs to be organized (this is the understatement of all understatements.) It is where I write and meet deadlines for the weekly newspaper I work for, as well as articles for magazines and a variety of other venues (who am I kidding here, I write for whoever will pay me). I am also supposed to be the office manager for my husband’s contracting/kitchen remodelling business. I am not a really good office manager. I really dislike paperwork, which may sound odd for someone who writes, but paperwork and writing are diametrically opposed. I do some minor bookkeeping, which I do not altogether understand, but our accountant walks me through it. He speaks to me in short sentences and words I mostly understand. I have a decent education, but all the courses I took in Shakespeare do not help me with rudimentary math.

English: Wooden File Cabinet with drawer open....

English: Wooden File Cabinet with drawer open. Taken by me. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The whole song and dance about bookwork explains why this room is so messy, as my filing system is remarkable (I know this as my husband John remarks on it all the time). In a nutshell, I am afraid to file things away. I am an “out of sight, out of mind” kind of girl. I am an “outie” not an “innie” when it comes to filing, and I am not referring to any parts of my anatomy. There have been studies done that prove that some people can file things away and actually find them again, and others need everything out in a jumble, to sift through every month in order to keep their books, and every year to do their income tax returns. (I will tell you the Christmas cake story later to prove my point that I should not put things “away”).

My office consists of two longs desks (which are really flat doors that my husband framed) set on a number of filing cabinets. There is a lot of stuff in the filing cabinets, some of it well over twenty years old that I have been meaning to throw out or re-file. The desks form a kind of L-shape against two walls. Right now one desk shares my writing work files with John’s business files and financial files, plus piles of newspapers I still have to clip my column out of. ( I write a weekly column, which you can partake of in this blog–called  coincidentally– On The Homefront and Beyond.)

The other desk has a phone, a printer/copier, a dictionary the size of a small house, and more files and papers destined at some stage to be put away, plus a myriad of bills, and important papers that I must look at–someday for some reason.

In the middle of the room is our dining room table with my laptop, surrounded by (you guessed it) more papers and receipts, and right now Christmas cards and last night’s copy of the Agenda for the municipal Council meeting I attended and have to write up. My day book is laying there forlorn, almost forgotten, and a calculator sits at the ready for me to finish this month’s bookwork (as well as the last 12 months). There is a lace tablecloth on the table to remind me that this is a multi-tasking room and not just an office. There are occasions (though few and far between) when I actually clean off the table, and we eat glorious and festive meals gathered around it. I believe Thanksgiving was the last time in recent memory.

As this blog entry is getting a bit long, I will continue later, but I think you are getting the point–the success of the rest of my life really does depend on me getting organized. I have a number of books I will be calling on to point me down the right path, and will tell you more tomorrow (or the next day, remember I am just getting organized, I am nowhere close to reaching my goal yet.) Oh, in case you were wondering, that is a minus sign in front of organizing–this is not like Economics 101 or Psych 101–it is me learning how to be organized, not teaching. I am just taking you along on the journey.

Hope you stick with me–

Published in: on November 30, 2011 at 8:30 pm  Comments (2)  
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Potlucks are not for the faint of heart

Recipes

Recipes (Photo credit: pirate johnny)

Hey, if you are going to be snobbish about it, forget adding me to your list of fans. Daniel Humm, executive chef of Eleven Madison Park in New York says that people who do not have a certain “level of skill” should relegate his new cookbook to the coffee table rather than near their cook top. According to a short article in the National Post, he says that the recipes in his book require (besides skill) a “significant time commitment, a reasonably equipped kitchen, and a healthy dose of persistence”. So I assume making a meal in fifteen minutes is not a significant time commitment, and the attention span of a baby rabbit and the skill set of an impatient “get in on the table so we can chow down kind of cook” are not the proper credentials needed to cook from “Eleven Madison Park:  The Cookbook”.

Well, Monsieur Humm, methinks your cookbook is not for me. Actually, that is not altogether true—as I treat reading cook books as kind of a hobby. I love to read about food, about exotic ingredients combined in unusual ways to create magnificence, all the while stirring 1% milk into my macaroni and cheese and warming up meatballs from the frozen section of the grocery store.

I have long made fun of my skills as a cook, and I have a friend who calls me on it, saying that she thinks I use my “phantom lack of skills” to ward off any criticism of my cooking. And she is right. I am not a bad cook—my family is not starving, and I can be creative in my own right—but I am not a particularly confident cook. I attended a small get together on Saturday night—a casual dinner party, and having volunteered to bring dessert, I had visions of all kinds of delectables I could make and offer to my friends. I usually volunteer to make the salad, but in my new quest to “take risks” I offered to bring the finale to the dinner instead.

I told my sister of this unusual offer to make dessert and she promptly emailed me an easy and foolproof recipe for dessert that she was sure would be a hit. She is aware of my skills, so sent something that had very few ingredients, and even fewer steps. I think that part of my problem is that I am a languid (synonym for lazy) cook, as well as a little unsure when it comes to feeding anyone outside my family (which includes my siblings and nieces and nephews, who are kind about my efforts).

I was determined to try the recipe. I made a list of the ingredients and was all set to buy them and “compose” a homemade dessert. Then I got cold feet. I perused the bakery section of a local grocery store and found a sinful dessert that would be sure to please. I considered buying the caramel chocolate mousse cake and putting it on a plate from home to “make it seem” as if I had baked it. But then, I decided on two things: I should practice baking before I tried the recipe on my friends, even though I knew my sister would not steer me wrong; and, to be honest. I presented the cake unapologetically in its original packaging. These were good friends—they would understand. And they did. But they did not know the angst that went into “buying” dessert.

Desserts from JusQytly

Desserts from JusQytly (Photo credit: laRuth)

I never judge when people bring “prepared” food to a potluck, as I understand their trepidation. I suffer from it too. To those of you out there who either do not care what people think about your cooking (good for you) or are such good cooks that you have great confidence from years of success, I honour your commitment to “homemade” and enjoy it immensely. There is also a faction out there who is unabashedly unapologetic—as they should be. They bring offerings that may not be “from their hands but still from their hearts” and I honour you too. We are all talented in different ways and being made to feel guilty because you do not make your offerings from scratch is just not hospitable.

So, this holiday season, as we all venture out to our potlucks, go with what makes your season bright and not stressful. If “homemade” is not your forte, that is what grocery stores and specialty shops are for. Some of us will reject Chef Humm’s cookbook except as a form of light reading, and others will relish it as an instruction manual that will garner rewards, which the Chef says is possible, if you follow the recipes “exactly”. By the way, I am going to try my sister’s recipe and report back—just not under the pressure of producing a grand ending to a great meal.

Published in: on November 28, 2011 at 9:35 pm  Comments (8)  
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