A space of one’s own

Because my company is completely distributed, my primary workspace is at home. When I needed to select a permanent workspace in our home, for various reasons, the most sensible location was a corner of the front room of our house. I have our old dining room table (bought on consignment for the tiny dining area in our old condo- incalculable sentimental value) set up there as a desk, and have added shelving and drawer units and other accoutrements over time.

Since I also wanted some creative workspace where watercolor paintings could be left out to dry, this is also my art space.

This setup has advantages, but has proven to be a challenge for setting boundaries. My computer and monitor are kept right next to my paints and markers, paperwork to complete kept next to my sketchbooks.

I’m already someone with issues setting boundaries between work time and personal time (not because of external pressure to work all the time, but because I like my work and I find it engaging in a way that borders on hyperfocus), and the idea behind choosing analog hobbies like watercolor and hand lettering was to get away from screens all the time. But having all that work happening in the same space is not the most conducive.

I can’t wait to show you…

This post was originally a Twitter thread, but I delete my tweets after three months. So I’m preserving it here.

A while back, after feeling shamed by– of all things– an XKCD cartoon, I started adopting a posture of delight when someone tells me they haven’t seen/heard/read some bit of culture that I consider essential or universal.

Which is how it came to be that I recently spent a Sunday night on the couch, lights dimmed, drinking good wine and eating spaghetti with homemade sauce, watching The Godfather with a friend who was seeing it for the first time.

I’ve been watching this movie since I was a kid– it was a family favorite– and to this day if I flip past it on cable, it’s what I end up settling on. I’ve seen it so many times now that I literally forget which parts are supposed to be suspenseful. That’s why I love riding along when someone sees it for the first time- their reactions make it fresh for me, and I discover nuances and contours I had previously missed.

We both have young kids and clearly can’t watch it with them, so we had to start the movie pretty late, and it’s long, so the next day we were both pretty tired. But it was worth it! She loved it, I loved watching it with her, and we’re already plotting when to watch the next one.

So I truly believe that adopting the phrase “Oh! That means you still get to see it for the first time!” will enhance your life, and I recommend it to all.

Eight remote workers walk into a meetup…

Today is the third anniversary of the day I left the office at my federal contracting job like:

That means it’s been three years of working from home. Three years of being home more or less alone all day, hanging with the family in the evening, seeing friends on the weekends. As an introvert, I’ve grown accustomed to this level of human contact and have come to prefer it.

So imagine the abrupt adjustment needed to go to my team’s meetup last week and live with my coworkers, most of whom I had never met in person, in a rented house for a week.

I feel like I’m going to spend some part of Monday staring at the wall.

There is nothing quite like living with semi-strangers you work with for a week to throw all your weird quirks and habits into sharp relief.

Sunday afternoon art time

…while the husband and some play Mario Party in the other room. 😍

This is a kit from Let’s Make Art. They send you instructions, a reference image, watercolor paper, paints, an outline (where appropriate) and provide a YouTube tutorial so you can paint along.

There are things I’d like to be different about this painting, but I’m overall pretty pleased with the result.

Beans and greens and ham

I make this in the Instant Pot, and it’s delicious. If you don’t have an electric pressure cooker, you could easily to do this in a slow cooker, or on the stove. It’s less a recipe than a game plan. You will need: 

An onion
A bell pepper
A carrot
A bunch of kale or chard, leaves separated from stems
A couple cloves of garlic, smashed
A pound of dry beans
A smoked ham hock
A few bay leaves
Some extra ham (the kind you cut off a ham, not deli ham)
6 cups of some combination of water and stock (if you only have water, no worries; it’ll still be great)

Dice your onion, bell pepper, carrot, and kale/chard stems finely. Turn the Instant Pot on “Sauté” and heat up some kind of fat- I use bacon grease here, but you could easily use some kind of oil or even butter. Throw the vegetables and garlic cloves in with some salt and pepper and toss them around until they start to to cook down a bit.

Add your ham hock, your pound of beans, your 6 cups of liquid, your bay leaves, and your extra ham. You could also add some red pepper flakes here, or some hot sauce or vinegar, but I’d avoid adding salt at this point because the ham is going to add a lot of salt and smokiness. Taste for salt levels at the end. 

Seal up the Instant Pot and set it for 40 or so minutes of pressure time. Wander off and do something else. When it goes off, maybe let it sit for another 20 minutes or so; there’s no rush here. 

Open the Instant Pot and taste what you’ve got. Add any seasonings you think it needs. If it’s super watery, ladle some out, but this should feel like a soup or a stew at this point. Add your greens in and stir them around so that the heat wilts them. 

Ladle all this into a bowl, and serve with whatever fixings you like- more hot sauce, maybe some cheddar cheese melted on top. 

The Hour of Tiff

When I started my new job at Automattic a couple weeks ago, I went from having a lot of time on my hands as a never-busy-enough freelancer to suddenly being at my desk for 8 hours a day during my Happiness Rotation. (On rotation, I have the freedom to decide my own schedule for doing support work, but the best time to do it is while everyone else is at work and school.) Suddenly I felt like I had no time for anything- I’d get the kid off to school, do a full a day of work, and then it was time to head out to pick up my son and have evening family time. 

Looking at my color-coded schedule (a post about my planner is coming another day), I realized that the only way I was likely to get another hour in my day is to get up an hour earlier. I can do that and still get enough sleep, but I’ve never been a morning person, so this is going to be a hard habit to establish. 

I read recently that the only way to establish a habit like getting up early is to tie it to something you’re excited about doing instead of something you “should” do- if you’re getting up to clean the house or work more, you’re never going to make yourself do it. But if you’re getting up to do something you like – reading, catching up on your favorite TV show, making art – then you’ll be motivated to actually get up out of your comfy bed and get moving.  (It sounds obvious, but this was a little bit of a revelation to me, after reading a million profiles of tech dudes who swear that they only need 5 hours of sleep and get up before the sun every morning to walk the dog and meditate.)

Anyway, partway through week I declared The Hour of Tiff, AKA, Time for Doing Whatever the F— I Want. Here’s how it went:

Continue reading “The Hour of Tiff”