Time Out

Two whole weeks free with nothing planned: perfect! I can finally catch up on my photo organisation, ancestry research, house tidying, the next category of KonMari, cleaning out the art cupboard and the kids’ school drawers, writing posts for this very blog, tidying my desk, and a couple of bookkeeping leftovers to finish up 2015.

Spurred on by my past Christmas knitting projects and last year’s ancestry research which led directly to an incredible trip to China this past autumn, in my list-loving way I wrote down every last thing I wanted to accomplish.

We ended up working a few days longer than planned, so the two weeks off became a week and a half. I dived into photo organisation and got as far as making a photo book with Blurb of our summer trip to Mexico. Plus one post on my ‘50% ancestry’ website which covers my maternal line. The more I research, the more I uncover. That is the lure of genealogical research. I connected with two more people whose families are from the same village as my great-grandfather, one of whom is a distant cousin.

During holidays and even weekends, I am amazed at how much time and energy ‘regular life’ takes, from cooking and keeping the house clean to spending time with the kids and taking the dog out. The baseline of things to do on a ‘free day’ – activities filling the day – isn’t 0 out of 100 but something like 50 out of 100.

The kids have professed they don’t believe in Santa, which made gift-giving easier. They now receive an allowance and we’re more aware of teaching them the value of money. This year they chose their own gifts, and even know how much they cost.

Our Christmas tree was slightly smaller than usual since the living room is temporarily shortened due to building works at the house. Every year my parents in law make a chopped salad which is their traditional Christmas dish. It contains potatoes, eggs, herring, apples, celeriac, carrots, gherkins, beans and lentils. The entire preparation takes about half a day and the kids helped with it, as my father in law would help his own parents when he was a child. Here it is in a bowl from my mother – both sides of the family coming together.


The morning of Christmas Eve (actually the more important day than Christmas in many cultures, including for my husband’s German family), we had a family reunion for the puppies. Here are two light pups including Sunny, two dark pups and light mum, plus the attendant children. It was wet, cold, windy – and heaps of fun!

christmas dogs

Lots of Christmas had happened and I felt anxious to get back to my long Christmas 2015 list, much of which I had been putting off for months until these free and hopefully very productive couple of weeks. But I couldn’t bear to sit myself in front of a screen again, and many of the items included screen time. Off screen, I convinced myself that the kids’ areas would be easier to tidy (i.e. recycle most of their papers) without them around. I felt exhausted, unmotivated and guilty.

Ticking things off the list is what I wanted – so I made a new kind of a list that allowed me to let go: relax, take a walk, do nothing, watch a movie. Half the items I had done already so that made it even easier. There’s a lot to be said about lowering the bar! The list itself is on my phone and computer in the fab app Wunderlist. I posted the screengrab to Facebook, and then told myself to then step away from the devices.

Serendipitously, I had 6 months of The Simple Things magazine stocked up – I had won the subscription in a silent auction but there was some problem in actually receiving the magazines, so the issues were delivered all at once. It was the perfect Christmas therapy.

With the bar lowered to zero during week two of the break, I still felt tired, but not unmotivated (since I didn’t need motivation to do anything) and not guilty. The new Christmas list is all ticked and the original list is still mostly unticked. The most important box ticked is feeling truly rested and refreshed by the end of the holidays.

simple things

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