I’d like to find the right words to describe the sky today. Cold, bright, slightly ruffled clouds.
The kind of winter day that lifts you up; the kind that also has you doing the morning footwear calculation for the kids. Shoes or boots?
Boots (wellies) won out, which was just as well: there were some puddles with ice on. Would have been a shame not to examine them close up i.e. wade through the puddles.
There’s snow on the hills today. Closer to the coast, you don’t really see the chill of the day, though you can feel it on your neck; in your hands.
(Replacing leather gloves in the sales? Turns out that was a very good plan.)
A while back, I learned about the notion of kaizen: little tiny changes, day by day, that add up to significant change.
Evidently kaizen means ‘good change’, and is a big thing in management circles in Japan.
I may have done New Year’s Resolutions in the past, but these days, it’s too easy for them to become an addition to the ‘to do’ list.
And with two kids in school, bringing home new bits of paper, sporting new holes in school uniform etc, there’s no lack of things to put on the ‘to do’ list.
So back to kaizen. I don’t feel the need to go into a full continuous improvement mindset any more; I’m not doing corporate stuff any more.
But a tiny bit of change, here and there, bit by bit – yes, it does add up. And you can then pat yourself on the back a bit, and see how it’s gradually coming together.
That’s the idea, anyway.
Maybe it’s kaizen. Maybe it’s rediscovering my mojo in a couple of areas. Earlier in the week, I ended up doing some baking.
Not world-changing, true. Thing is, I used to do quite a lot of baking. I liked it. It was something I felt reasonably good at.
Then we moved Junior onto a gluten- and dairy-free diet, and the baking mojo packed up and left.
It shouldn’t have to, I know. But baking was something about ease; about the feel of putting ingredients together without too much thinking.
Wheat-flour cooking was (not surprisingly) where I learned to bake, as a child, watching my mum make yet another batch of rockbuns.
(Yet another only really refers to the speed at which said rockbuns were consumed. We were all for as many batches of rockbuns as we could get. Still are, really.)
As an adult, continuing to bake, you draw on some of that ease, that breeziness of feeling ‘I know how this works’.
Baking free-from shouldn’t have to be that different – it’s just it’s not based on the same ease there used to be.
Anyway. Big breakthrough. I tried an apple cake, one I used to make a fair amount, having had some baking apples passed on to us.
I decided to make it as the recipe stated, just with gluten-free flour and baking powder, and dairy-free marg.
TOTAL success. It is maybe a little softer than the original, but in all other aspects, itÂ feels like the original. So much so that I had to put some of it in the freezer to stop us eating it all on the spot.
Anyway. A small change. One that felt like: I can do this again. Even dusted off some cookbooks. Let’s see if I can add a further reworked cake to the list.
A new year, a few new TV series. The Young Montalbano series returns. We shout ‘Dottore!’ and make the appropriate supplicating hand gestures.
Today there’s sun, yes, but it’s been a pretty wet grey start to the year. Opportunities to look at sun and sea in Sicily, even if just on the telly? Si, por favore.
Junior and Mini have decided to collaborate and build a hotel together in Minecraft. I am not quite sure of the genesis of this project, but they both seem very keen on it.
In the spirit of encouraging talking to each other, rather than shouting at each other (not all the time, but…), we’ve upped their gametime slot, so they can talkÂ and build.
So far, there is cake in every room, a certain number of ladders to climb, and a few more surprises.
J: What shall we use this time? Shall we try quartz? Look, this is polished quartz.
M: OK. Is that sheep fluff?
It is fair to say that Mini’s interest in Minecraft is so far mostly around the animals (and occasionally blowing them up), so appreciation of building materials is newer.
Rest assured I shall appraise you of the inner workings of the hotel, once complete.
On a different kaizen-type note, I’m doing some sewing. It’s kind of addictive, in a positive, peaceful-repetition sort of way.
This is a very housekeeping sort of sewing. I’ve been able to take up hems on school trousers before, sew on nametapes, and other bits and pieces.
Now I’ve worked out how to add some material onto the bottom of kids’ pyjama bottoms to make them longer (and hopefully, reduce the need to buy new ones).
Flushed with success, I’ve also sussed a couple of things about waistbands. For one, I unpicked the waistband on another pair of pyjama bottoms, made the elastic shorter, and sewed it back up again.
I’m guessing this should work on regular kids’ leggings too.
A couple of other pairs of leggings, passed on, had lost all their elastic and wouldn’t stay up. These ones had a proper trousers-style waistband that I didn’t think I could safely take apart.
So I made a new bit of waistband out of a strip of material, sewed it over the existing waistband, then added new elastic. That seemed to work, so I did the same on the other pair.
So far so good. Mini is enjoying picking the contrasting material from my stash;
I am enjoying figuring out how to make something work. Everyone’s happy.
We are in a brave new world of using timers.
Junior has suddenly discovered the ability to get dressed much faster (and without me shouting through the door). With the option of trying to ‘beat the clock’, suddenly getting dressed is much more interesting.
This is transforming my mornings on school days, and Junior is also finding that, with a bit of time left over, there’s a chance to do something fun before heading out the door.
Meanwhile, the world of stop-motion films continues. Dan sets up a plain background, and he, Junior and Mini try making some little films for themselves.
So far, my role appears to be to make approving noises. And to provide snacks once it’s all done.
I can do that.
We have had a happy few days of seeing friends this month.
Some of these friendships go back well over a decade. It’s wonderful to find that we still have things to say to each other. Conversations form; we remember bits of each others’ shorthand.
Encouraged, I get the diary out today, and set up one or two more meetups.
Kaizen for introverts: leave the house and meet people. Good people.
Even one at a time will do just fine.