28 November, 2012  |   6 Comments

Working from home, a tip or three

My Monday’s are superduperdays, I’ll give them that.

But for a good chunk of the rest of the week, I work from home. This allows a less intense schedule. Inspired by Pamie’s most recent Weekly Procrastination post, I thought I’d throw my tips on the pile.

Pinot says PLEASE WALK ME.

My morning starts the rest of the week at 5:00 am when I walk the dog.
Being a morning person stunk in college, but I’m okay with it now.

My coffee is 2/3 decaffeinated and 1/3 caffeinated.
(This way I can have more than one cup before inappropriate outbursts.)

I exercise, make the coffee, quickly scan work email for emergencies and make breakfasts for the toddlers. If there’s time, I do morning pages. We get dressed, I take the girls to school and we laugh and yell the whole way through.

When I’m back at the house alone, I eat breakfast (it helps!) and make my daily list.

a Helen Jane work from home tip
Make a list first
My lists are super granular. I break everything down into 30 minute or less chunks of activity. I do it before getting into my email (besides my emergency scan). I list all the tasks to do before nine pm. I don’t let my list cover more than 2/3 of the page so there’s room for the inevitable tasks that pop up.

Every day, I’m surprised when my husband comes home, even though it’s been this way for 3 years. Gah. After realizing I’ve been hunched over the phone or the laptop for five hours straight and my neck probably hurt and my leg was asleep, I installed a stretch timer.

Thus the next tip…

a Helen Jane work from home tip
Set up a Stretch Timer on your phone or your computer 
Bodies weren’t made for all this laptop hunching.
We’re at home! let’s take advantage of our privacy and get a little weird! Let’s swing these meat sack appendages around every 30 minutes or so, it feels good. I use the Stretch Timer widget and/or the timer on my phone.

By 4:30 pm, The pacing outside my office space has worn yet another hole in the carpet. All my people need something. So I take a break and start supper in earnest. When the food goes in the oven, or the food is simmering, I head back upstairs for a work check-in.

a Helen Jane work from home tip
Take advantage of supper
You can make amazing suppers, just by popping in at various parts of the preparation process. Take tiny breaks to chill doughs, whip up desserts and use your food processor in a calm, measured and uncrowded kitchen. Some steps can take only a few minutes — use that stretch timer to your advantage.

By 5:30 pm, supper is on the table. We say what we’re “thank you” for and we eat together.  I love this part of the day.

Lamb Kebabs

Before bed, the girls dance and run and sometimes play Candyland and sometimes play dress-up and sometimes play with blocks and sometimes play babies and sometimes make a Hot Wheels track and sometimes fight and cry.

Just like you and me.

Usually it looks like this:

Then we bathe and pajama and read and tuck.

At 8:00, I check once more into work, as well as my side projects and writing projects and all the little things that seemed fun at the time. This includes working on my presentations, illustrations and party preparations.

By 9:30, I finish up my prep for tomorrow. Depending on where I’ll be, you could find me getting notes, clothing, packing, tomorrow’s dinner and bus fare ready for another day.

a Helen Jane work from home tip

30 minutes tonight is worth an hour in the morning
That last half hour of the day can make or break your next day. Put out as much as you can for tomorrow. I put out my makeup and hair-doing supplies, my clothing, dog walking doodads (leash, bags, coat), the coffee, the girls’ lunches, everything I can.

Hope some of these scheduling tips help you pack a wee bit more into your day.

26 November, 2012  |   13 Comments

Day in the life: Monday

In the spirit of Nablopomo, a typical Monday.

Good morning.I do it the night before.
That’s how I do it.

Write little notes for my little girls.
Put out my clothes for work and put out my dog-walking clothes, the dog’s leash and bags.
Set up the coffee.
Set out my makeup (every minute in the morning counts!).
Set up the exercise video.
Put out my work bag, fully packed.
Pack my breakfast and lunch and the girls’ lunches.
Drop a dinner in the slow cooker, drop the slow cooker insert in the fridge.

4:00 am
Up and at ‘em. I roll out of bed, do a quick exercise video, turn on the water to boil and leave the house for Pinot and I to take our daily 45 minute walk.


5:00 am
Pour the coffee through the coffee dripper.
While I’m waiting for the coffee, I stretch.
While I’m stretching, I say something positive.

“Today’s going to be chock full of adventure.”
“I am kind and hopeful.”
“My life is filled with love.”
(Sounds weird, but it works for me.)

Then I take a shower and
get dressed and
put on my makeup and
do my hair and
the older I get,
the more time it takes.

5:27 am
Pop downstairs, write a quick note for James’ and put it next to the coffee. I try to set up coffee for him, because he’s coming out right behind me with two grumpy toddlers in tow.

5:30 am
Hop out the door and
walk to the bus stop and
take the bus to the ferry.

My tummy doesn’t handle typing on the bus very well, so it’s all closed eyes, organizing thoughts and TTBook.org.


7:00 am
Ride the ferry to San Francisco.
I love the ferry.

On the ferry, I check into work and answer personal emails. My work team is mostly in New York, and since I’m a morning person, it’s a win.


8:00 am
Walk through the ferry building to the office.
I get to walk down San Francisco’s Embarcadero, and it’s beautiful.

Squinting chilly Bay smells.
Rocket ship and cupid’s arrow.


8:30 am
Arrive at work.
My job is fascinating — even more so now that things have become evolvey — will personal storytelling still win out?

I’m here to try to make that happen.
I hope it will.

Commuting.4:00 pm
Walk to the ferry building, hop on the ferry, the bus and my way home.

7:15 pm
Walk in the door, hear the sounds of toddler splashing and a tired James.
Put the pajamas on the littles, pile on the bed for three stories, hugs and kisses and a few more trips for waters and potties.

Reading time

8:30 pm
One more online check and then it’s time to get ready for Tuesday.
Tuesday is one of my favorites.

This is how I do it, 2-3 days a week.
How do you do it?
Do you do it?

21 November, 2012  |   Comment

Great Smelling Play Dough

Make your own great-smelling play dough.

Found this recipe for a great smelling play dough on the site Ebb and Flow, and it’s a goodie.

Make your own great-smelling play dough.

2 cups water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups flour
1 cup salt
2 tablespoons cream of tartar
2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
Gell food coloring

Mix the water and vegetable oil in a medium saucepan over low heat.
Add the flour, salt, cream of tartar and pumpkin pie spice.

Stir vigorously until it comes together — you’re going to have to put your back into it.

Then separate the dough into as many colors as you want to make.
Knead the gel color into the dough until it’s the right color for you.

Make your own great-smelling play dough.

Make this dough first thing on Thanksgiving morning, before starting the cooking. This means the girls can have something to knead, pound and stir while I knead, pound and stir.

Make your own great-smelling play dough.

If you can spare the oven time, bake the shapes in the oven at 250° for 1 hour.

29 October, 2012  |   11 Comments

Throw a parade!

Question: Are you sick enough to have to stay home from preschool but not quite sick enough to have to stay in bed?

Answer: A parade

A St. Helena Parade!

Parades are not sexy.
There’s no drama.
Just marching down the street
in a costume,
banging on an instrument.

Wait, it’s not a costume.
in our parades, it’s a get up.

A St. Helena Parade!

So we put on our get ups,
and we celebrate being human
(alive, awake, alive, awake.)
We’re not that sick anymore, and it’s 11:00am.

A St. Helena Parade!

an accordion and a
jingle stick are our
instruments of choice.

Mama brings her big purse,
to hold what gets too heavy.

Onlookers are optional.
No one needs to bear witness,
this is about us,
feeling seen,
having fun.

Now that I think about it,
why don’t you have a parade right now?

A parade of you!

Not celebrating your sexy or your strength, but
your humanity.
You’re human.

You, there, at your desk,
hold your head up,
bend your elbows,
swing your arms and
pull your knees up high on
that walk to the restroom,
as you hum the paradiest tune you can muster.

(Throw candy if you’re feeling generous.)

A St. Helena Parade!

We paraded down the sidewalk
to the trail,
past the office buildings,
down main street
until a princess got trapped in the evil bike jail.

A St. Helena Parade!

Working together to save each other.
As we do.

A St. Helena Parade!

After the parade there is always a treat.
This parade ended at Model Bakery with Giants’ (yay Giants!) cookies and a spinning contest.


We’re paradable.
We’re worth celebrating.
Let’s feel seen.
Let’s be seen.

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