Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Arranging your own convenience (how messing with your own head can be productive)

When you're trying to do the next thing, it helps to know what that thing is. There's an old writer's trick of stopping work in the middle of a chapter, so that when you get back to work, you know exactly where you're at, just pick things up and start writing again.

Many homeschoolers, not all but many of them, do pre-planning in the summer. Sometimes (as in Lydia's Grade 8 year), this goes as far as having an entire year's weekly work written out and bound at Staples. The thinking is that then, even if you change some things, you already have that idea in your head; you know what you're doing, and all that's left is to do it. I know at least one person who made a point of collecting up all the art and science supplies required for the term (or maybe the year) and having them handy in one box. (At least the non-perishable ones.) And it makes sense: even if you don't buy a science kit, shouldn't you have the same convenience as those who do, even if you have to arrange the convenience yourself?

We are not homeschooling this year, but I still do a lot of pre-arranging, maybe more than ever.To quote Aristotle and Mary Poppins, it seems like well begun really is half done. Especially if you buy a lot of zip-lock bags. (Oh, how I love those extra-large ones--and I wonder why I waited all those years to buy any.)

I pre-sorted and pre-cut fabric and supplies for Christmas crafting, and that way I knew how far the fabric was going to stretch, whether I actually had any interfacing, and where the spool of red thread was. When I felt like sewing and had time, I took out the right (large, extra-large) bag and everything was right there, no excuses, just like a craft kit. I think of this as a sort of messing with my own head, in a good way. If you know you tend to procrastinate on things because they're too much work, then having them pre-started can be enough of an incentive to finish them off.

That's one reason freezer-non-cooking has worked well for us this fall.The meals are made, they just have to be cooked. Recently I have done the same thing with dry ingredients for baking (more zip-lock bags, and I do wash and re-use them). I have an awesome bread-machine recipe for whole-wheat bread, but I buy the bag of whole-wheat flour and then forget to make any until the flour goes rancid. (Yes, I know you can freeze it.) I figured out that a small bag of flour makes about three loaves (and a couple of cups left over for muffins), so that's what I did: pre-measured the bread ingredients into bags, wrote on them what else to add (water, oil, yeast), and stored them in the cold room. I did the same for pizza dough and two types of muffins, and some of the ingredients I have collected up for holiday baking. I figured out that we had just enough coconut, but no dried cranberries, so those went on the shopping list.

All this has nicely short-circuited my procrastinatory tendencies, allowing my do-it side to shout a Simpson-esque "HA-HA" at the Daemon of Sloth. Aside from feeling so virtuous and actually getting the sewing completed (so much so that yesterday I just looked at the sewing machine and knew we were done our relationship for this season), it has paid off in more practical terms. At four o'clock yesterday afternoon, I put a bag of pizza-dough mix into the bread machine, let it run its fairly short pizza-dough-mix-rise cycle, preheated the oven, stretched the dough into a big pan, spread it with some garlic margarine Lydia had talked me into buying, sprinkled it with grated cheese (I do buy grated cheese sometimes, especially the mixed Italian kind), pre-cut it into breadsticks with a pizza wheel, and baked the whole thing for about twenty minutes. Mr. Fixit and Lydia got home at 5:30, and the big puffy cheesy breadsticks were just coming out of the oven.

Now here's the truth, if you really need to know how lazy I can be: pizza dough has hardly anything in it anyway. I think all that was in the bag was pre-measured flour and salt. (I added water, oil, and yeast when I mixed it.) It would not have taken much for me to think "bread sticks. Yes, there's a new bag of flour. There's the salt. Measure it out, off we go." Really, I could have managed that. But there's this extra incentive: a zip-lock bag with Pizza Dough written on it, telling me to add things to it, tantalizing me with its existence, begging me to make something out of it. The same with the bags of pre-sorted fabric and trims: "I'm a little XXX waiting to be born. Bring me to life." And freezer meals: "I'm a Crockpot full of chili."

And that's all there is to it.

1 comment:

Kathy W. said...

You know, that's brilliant. I rarely bake, and that because I've become so impatient with the measuring out bit of it. If I could just pre-measure, with the recipe written out already on the container, half the battle is won.