How I organized my mornings

morning tea

I used to think I was definitely a night owl, and totally not a morning person. It has always been difficult for me so wake up early and I’d stay up really late every night. And I was trying to adjust my life accordingly. I thought that a nine to five kind job was not for me and that I needed to do something where I’d be able to work whenever I feel like.

Then I started working on my own business and realized that mornings were exactly the time I was the most productive. Since I allowed myself to be a night owl I slept through my most productive time. The times I tried to work I ended up mostly procrastinating. When I realized that my time management is not working at all I started following my activities throughout the day. What I noticed was that every night I went to sleep after 2 am, but from 10 pm on I didn’t really do anything productive. I just surfed the internet or watched tv shows for hours in bed. That kind of shocked me, cause I always thought night time was when I am the most active and awake. And yes I was awake indeed, but I could as well be asleep and the results would have been exactly the same.

So I decided it was time for a change. I had to utilize my most productive hours, which was morning and early day time, and use the night time for resting. And guess what? Nowadays I wake up every morning at 6 am, get up at 6.30 and get a lot done before going to work, which gives me great motivation and energy for the workday ahead. Wanna know how I did it? Here are some strategies that worked for me and will surely work for you.

1. Find a wake up buddy

The hardest thing for me is to actually wake up. When I hear the alarm clock ring all I know is that I want to go back to sleep. Even if there’s something important I have to do, I lose all feeling of responsibility. UNLESS that important thing I have to do is for someone else. Sounds familiar? Then you should find someone with a similar problem and start waking each other up.

For me it was my sister. She had difficulties waking up early enough to make it in time to her morning lectures. So I started calling her every morning to wake her up. Now I am responsible for her success as well and I can't slack on that. I call her every morning and we talk until we are both fully awake. The best way to wake yourself up is to get your brain working and nothing does it better in the morning than just plain chatting to someone. And when your brain is fully awake getting up doesn’t feel so hard anymore. I love that I get to connect with my sister regularly and catch up on things and it is a great bonus. We live in different countries and we are both quite busy, so we don't get to see each other very often.

2. Go to bed early

This makes a huge difference on how easy or difficult it will be to get up in the morning. I tend to get super active in the evening and start doing things I don’t have time for and before I know it it’s too late to get enough sleep. My secret solution is setting a going-to-bed alarm. I set my alarm at 10 pm every weekday night. When it rings it means I have to stop everything and go to bed. Even if I don’t feel sleepy I still go to bed and read a book for a while.

Make it a rule that you have to be in bed 8 hours before your wake up alarm. Even if you don't feel like sleeping. You can do something that calms you down, for example, read or crochet, but do not use your devices! There should be no screen shining into your eyes before you go to sleep. After a while your body gets used to it and you will find your own best time to go to bed. It is not 8 hours for everyone, but that is the average, which is a good starting point.

3. Have a morning routine

When I found out that all humans have a limited amount of willpower per day I was a little bit in panic. I am often really bad with making decisions, which means I have to take as little decisions in the morning as possible. That way I can save that willpower to take the right decisions when it is really important and hopefully have some left to stay off biscuits and potato chips.

Every morning I take time brewing my green tea, blending my green smoothie and preparing my lunchbox to take to work. My breakfast is pretty much the same every morning, so I don’t spend any extra willpower deciding what I’d like to have. I like to prepare recipes for my smoothies ahead, so I don’t have to decide on that, but still have some variety. Yeah, I know, my morning routine mostly includes food-related activities. Well, it does include shower and brushing my teeth, but I don’t have to talk about that, cause for most of us that is the routine we acquired when we were kids. At the moment I am trying to add yoga practice and cleaning to my mornings too. I still don’t do it every day, but I’m getting there. More on that below.

Just remember, habits and routines take time to build. You might fail on keeping up with them several times. Please, don’t give up and say this is not for you. Some of them might not be for you. But you need to take time to realize that. I had a goal to drink green smoothies every day. I failed many times because of not having ingredients at home, because of feeling lazy, because of traveling or having people over. But I was getting better and better at it with time and I was feeling much more healthy and energized when I drank them regularly. Nowadays I somehow always have ingredients (shopping for fruit and greens regularly has also become a habit) and spending time blending them every morning is not even a question. I just do it. But it took time and several failures to get here.

4. Get things done before going to work

I love the feeling of getting to work at 9 am having already accomplished something. It doesn’t have to be anything big. For me it is usually cleaning the apartment for 15-20 minutes. It feels so great to leave and come back to a tidy home. Plus 20 minutes of cleaning every day is much more fun that several-hour-cleaning-sessions on a Sunday. And I know if I leave it for the evening it won't happen.

This can be anything you wish you could do regularly, but never found time to do. If you wanna exercise more, paint or draw, crochet or knit, spend more time with your children, read books. Start getting up a bit earlier and spend 20 minutes every morning doing that thing you really want to do. Make it into a habit over time and you will get so much accomplished before you know it!

5. Exercise

Why would you actually do all this stuff in the morning instead of just sleeping and rushing straight to work? Because you want to stay energized, motivated and in good mood for the rest of the day. Physical activity is one of the best ways to stay focused and productive. Well, I'd say its good food and physical activity. You don’t have to go to a gym or have a 1,5 hour yoga class every morning (but if thats your thing, go ahead, it sounds amazing!) Spend at least 20 minutes doing something active in the morning. If you want to save time you can walk or ride a bicycle to work (I love to bike to work now that its warm outside). If you are ready to wake up a bit earlier, do a short workout or yoga session, go jogging or just dance around your house. Physical activity is an amazing way to wake your body up, stay energized and feel good. Next time you start feeling tired in the middle of the day, try jumping up and down 20 times, walk around the block or dance like crazy to your favorite song instead of getting that cup of coffee. Works like a charm!


This all might feel overwhelming at first and you might think you will never be able to organize your mornings like that. But believe me, if you told me a year ago that this is what my mornings would be like I would have laughed in your face. You need to think of what is important for you, what your ideal morning looks like and start adding one thing at a time. Remember to be persistent and I promise you will see results!

What do you do in the mornings? Any tips for your favorite ways to start the day? Let me know in the comments!


Sketchbook

sasha kretova sketchbook

Here's another portion of my recent (and not so recent) sketches. As always, they look super simple, but that is how all my creative work starts. I love to keep things simple. These sketches are the kind that I draw when I am not working on any project, idea or collection. I just draw whatever comes to mind. Most of the time nothing special comes out, but I get to practice and the process itself inspires me. From time to time I may even come up with a great idea.

This time, as always, I've been experimenting with a lot of triangular and other geometric shapes and patterns. I've also started practicing some hand lettering. To be honest, my handwriting has never been really pretty. But I'd love to use my own writing in many design elements in my business so I decided I have to start with what I have and keep practicing so that one day it will look pretty. I also found my old sketches from when I was brainstorming for my logo design. On the bottom there are Amsterdam inspired house drawings, which were really fun to draw. Maybe I should ditch my black and white obsession in this one and color those houses, they will look so cute in different colors.

sasha kretova sketchbook
sasha kretova sketchbook
sasha kretova sketchbook
sasha kretova sketchbook


Smoothie of the Month: Strawberry and Mint

strawberry mint smoothie recipe

I'm so happy spring is here! I know its almost summer already, but here in the north it hasn't been that long since we started having warmer days. I've started riding my bicycle to work and I love it! It's really refreshing and a great exercise for the start of the day. Now that it's been warm and sunny I've been craving more fresh and summery tastes in my food. This smoothie is a perfect example. What can taste more summery than strawberry and more fresh than mint? For this one I used frozen strawberries, but I can't wait for summer to start so I could make this drink with fresh ripe strawberries.

strawberry mint smoothie recipe

Strawberry and Mint Smoothie
(serves two)

2 cups leafy greens (e.g. spinach, kale)
2 cups water
2 cups fresh or frozen strawberries
1 banana
8-10 fresh mint leaves

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Enjoy!





My Favorite Pets on Instagram

favorite pets on instagram

This post is more of a fun one and it includes cuteness, lots of it. For a while now I've been planning to share my favorite instagrammers here on the blog. Once I sat down to browse through them I realized many of them have pets and I love seeing photos of them in my feed. I actually remember most of those pets by name and I feel like they are my friends' pets. Yes, I have a weird connection to pets on instagram. So I thought those are the profiles I want to share with you guys, cause I connect to those people in a special way. Probably cause owning a pet is such a great common thing to connect over. Anyways, those are all amazing instagram profiles of extremely talented ladies with beautiful apartments/houses/studios and all the pretty things that they do, so even if you do not have the same weird pet obsession like I do I still think you should check those profiles out.

amelie mancini and ladybird
Amelie Mancini and Ladybird

Amelie is an amazing artist, printmaker and woodworker. I've been admiring her work mostly from her instagram account where she shows a lot of her progress as well as finished pieces. She also shares lots of pictures of her so nicely decorated home and of course her cat Ladybird. Go check the cat bed Amelie made for her, it's beautiful and goes so well in her home.

anna bakhonko and vasilisa
Anna Bakhonko and Vasilisa

Anna is a designer and decorator from Odessa, Ukraine. She makes lots of beautiful things and decorates pretty spaces and her apartment is definitely one of them. Her cat Vasilisa is so elegant and feminine and is really good at posing for photos.

ariele alasko, mazie and mr. c
Ariele Alasko, Mazie and Mr.C

Ariele is the most amazing woodworker out there. I am a huge fan of her work. Her wooden spoons are perfect and I love how she shares peeks at her process and inside her studio all the time on instagram. She has a dog called Mazie and a cat called Mr. C. From Ariele's photos they seem to be complete opposites: Mazie is happy and friendly all the time and Mr. C is super serious. But they seem to be getting along pretty well cuddling with each other all the time.

kelly from little paper planes, jane and justin
Kelly, Jane and Justin

Kelly runs Little Paper Planes shop in San Francisco, where she carries lots of beautiful items from different makers and designers. She's also a designer herself and the collection she's working on right now looks so beautiful and so simple. I love peeking inside her shop and her design process through her instagram account, where she sometimes also shares pictures of her cats Jane and Justin. They look so sweet always hugging each other in their sleep. I wish I had two cats some day and they would be that friendly to each other.

rebecca caridad, sadie and olive
Rebecca Caridad, Sadie and Olive

Rebecca is one of my favorite bloggers. She used to run a small crochet accessories business and now she's an amazing photographer, florist and calligrapher. Her photographs are always so dreamy and so open and honest. She's also a mama to two little poodles Sadie and Olive. Sadly Sadie has recently passed away and I am so sorry for Rebecca's loss. It is always heartbreaking to loose your pet friend. They become part of our families and when they go it's never the same again. So I wanted to include Sadie here, cause when I think of Rebecca I always imagine her with these two sweet little girls.

lindsi from people webs, fig and plum
Lindsi Jensen, Fig and Plum

Lindsi is another talented crochet designer. Her works are simple and beautiful and she shares some of the patterns on her blog so you can make them yourself too. Her pugs Fig and Plum are the cutest. She even dressed Plum to match her own costume on Halloween.

susk and banoo and colin
Susk and Banoo and a cat called Colin

This is my favorite cat on instagram! Colin is amazing, I seriously wish I could meet him one day. His mama is also pretty great, I've been following her for a while now drooling over pictures of her amazing apartment plus I love her sense of humor. I couldn't find her real name anywhere, not sure if she even shares it, but Susk and Banoo are what she and her husband call each other. Check her blog for the full story and many more pictures of Colin.

sasha kretova and notka
Sasha (me!) and Notka

Of course I also had to show you my little princess Notka. She's a very independent lady with a strong character. She won't sit on your lap unless you earned it. And she doesn't like to be hugged and kissed. If she loves you enough she will come and kiss you herself (which is more like lick and bite a little). She loves to sleep and when she's not sleeping she's chasing tiny plastic things (the ones used to seal bread packages) or stealing chocolate from people's table when they're not looking.

Do you have pets? Do you love sharing pictures of them? Show me!


My Secret to Blogging Regularly + A Free Printable

blog planner printable
How often do you find yourself wondering what to write about when you sit down to create your next blog post? Do you find it hard to blog regularly so you end up producing 5 great posts in a row and then staying silent for two months? I know exactly how you feel. I've been there. Now I've been blogging regularly (most of the time) for 6 or 7 months and I am ready to share the secret. Well, not so secret really and pretty obvious, but here is what you need to do to blog regularly and to always have fresh ideas: PLAN. I know, it feels great to be inspired and spontaneous and blog about ideas and projects that are coming from your head right now. And that approach is alright too, but only for a small portion of your posts. If you would like to produce quality content regularly you need to plan it. It makes it so much easier to write great posts on days when you are not super inspired and your head is not exploding with all the great ideas.

Here's how I do it. I've designed a planner for myself to schedule my blog posts and all the things I need to do to create them (photo sessions, writing, editing, researching and buying materials). Usually in the beginning of each month I start planning posts for the next month. For example, in April I've been working on April posts and planning May posts. In May I'll start creating those posts I planned and also print the planner for June and plan new posts. I usually publish my posts on Wednesdays, but I try to leave as little work for Wednesday as possible. In ideal situation I write and take photos on Monday, edit the photos and text on Tuesday and schedule the post to be published on Wednesday. That way if I am running late I still have Wednesday morning to finalize some of the editing. When the post requires some more preparation I might buy materials or test some of the things in the end of the previous week. Some of the posts are more random, for example, for "My Helsinki" posts I take photos whenever I am visiting the place I want to share, and I edit the photos and write the text when it is time to work on that post. Planning helps me to keep blogging even when I am away. When I am traveling I prepare posts beforehand and schedule them to be published on Wednesdays.

Different bloggers do it differently. Some people take a few days in the beginning of the month to write all the posts for that month so that they don't have to think about blogging for the rest of it. Others spend one whole day to deal with all of their blogging tasks for the week. For me it works best when I split each week's post into several days, that way I can also work on other tasks on those days. It does not matter what system works for you. The most important thing is that you find your system and plan plan plan.

To make your blog planning a little easier and more fun I'd like to share my planner with you. It's such a small and simple way to take your blogging to the next level. Even if you've already been pretty organized with your posts, this might be a fresh and fun new way to keep your blogging notes and schedule. The planner has slots for each day for four weeks, and it does not have the dates in it, so you can use it for any month or just start from any day you like. It has two pages to print on front and back. The back page has space for your blogging related to-do lists as well as for brainstorming your blog ideas for next months. Follow the instructions below to print your own blog planner and make sure to let me know in the comments how you organize your blogging routine!

blog planner printable

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Download the pdf HERE
2. Print on an A4 sheet of paper, double sided, scale setting at 100% (if you use letter size you can print on it too, but make sure to fit the image to page instead of scaling to 100%)
3. Fill you schedule in and have fun blogging!


Smoothie of the Month: Northern Berries and Green Tea

berries and green tea smoothie

There are two reasons why I love this smoothie: berries and green tea. Those red sour berries remind me of my childhood. I grew up on the North where there's never enough sun and no fresh fruit available for a large part of the year. But we had forests and they were full of berries: cranberries, lingonberries, blueberries and if you are very lucky you could even find cloudberries. Those berries are all loaded with vitamins and minerals and my mom would always make sure we had enough of them for the whole winter so we would never lack any vitamins while growing up. We ate them fresh during summer and fall and had them canned and frozen for the winter. The sour taste of those red berries still reminds me of my childhood and I love adding them to my smoothies for a boost of vitamins.

Green tea is my crazy obsession. I can't wake up without at least one cup of it (usually the whole teapot!) When brewed correctly it has this magic energizing effect, unlike coffee that just makes me feel more stressed. Recently I started adding green tea into my smoothies partly because I don't like to throw away leftovers and there is always some cold tea left in my kettle. I love the taste it adds to the smoothies and how it makes them even more energizing. If you are not much of a tea drinker and have only tried brewing tea bags before, I encourage you to dive into the whole ritual and I promise you will enjoy it. Here is a nice post with some tea brewing basics for you to start with.

This smoothie is a delicious combination of sour berries and green tea. To make it less sour I like to add a banana or two, but you can skip it or substitute with a green apple if you like it sour. I would also love to try making smoothies with other kinds of tea, so if you're not into green tea go ahead and add your favorite kind and let me know how it came out!

berries and green tea smoothie


Northern Berries and Green Tea Green Smoothie
(serves two)

1 cup green tea (or any other variety)
1 cup water
2 cups kale
1-2 bananas*
2 cups sour berries of your choice* (cranberry, lingonberry, black currant)

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Enjoy!

* Feel free to change the proportions of berries vs bananas depending on how sweet or sour
you like your smoothie to be.





My Helsinki: Winter Seaside

helsinki winter seaside

It's been almost a year in our new apartment and I still get excited every time I think how close we are now to the sea. In summer we loved taking walks along the seaside, look at boats and seagulls. But for the last couple of months it has been so cold and windy that we didn't feel like taking walks at all, let alone going anywhere near the sea.

It has been getting warmer lately and we've been enjoying lots of sunshine and I've been itching to go walk along the seaside again. Even though it started snowing today and it looks like winter all over again I couldn't help myself but take a walk along the coast on my way to work. It looks completely different now than it did in the summer. The boats are tucked in to rest till the start of the season, there are no birds screaming, the wooden decks and cafe terraces are empty. The whole place is so quiet and peaceful! And the snow falling slowly (I was lucky it wasn't a windy day!) added to this amazing atmosphere.

Now I can't wait to walk to the beach before it gets warmer! It must look amazing with all the snow and no people around.

helsinki winter seaside helsinki winter seaside helsinki winter seaside helsinki winter seaside helsinki winter seaside


Sketchbook



A few weeks ago I shared photos of some pages from my sketchbook here on the blog and on my instagram. You guys were so supportive that I decided to start sharing these peeks into my process more regularly.

Above are some more patterns I sketched. I love sketching patterns they are so meditative! When I don't have any ideas I just start to draw the same simple shape over and over again and my mind wanders at the same time. Oftentimes I get some new ideas in the process.

Below are some kitchen themed illustrations I am preparing for an exciting project which I can't wait to share with you, but it is on a very early stage now, so it is still going to take some time. Promise to keep you updated though! On the bottom photo there are some random shapes as well as some ancient signs and hieroglyphics I've been really into lately. Really hoping something fun is going to come out of those.




New Website is Up!



I am so excited to announce that I finally have my very own internet home! From now on in addition to my Etsy shop you can also find my products on my own website. I included larger images of my work and added some additional information about each collection. I am especially excited for my brand new e-mail list. If you would like to be the first to receive e-mail updates about new products and special offers (some of which will be available only to subscribers) go to the website and enter your e-mail on the bottom of the page. I'd love to see you among my subscribers!

You might have also noticed that I changed my business name to just my name. I have realized that I am much more comfortable with identifying myself as an independent designer rather than a company. I'd like people to know from the name of my business that there is one little lady behind it doing it all by herself. I also felt that I do not want to limit my business to stationery, I might want to add other products in the future and I want them all to fit under my brand. I decided to keep the name of the blog though, cause I still feel it is a cute name :)

Let me know what you think of the new site in the comments! I'd love to hear your thoughts. And if there's anything unclear or if you notice anything that is not working, I'd appreciate if you let me know!


Smoothie of the Month: Lime and Raspberry



Happy beginning of spring! Here in Helsinki it feels more like fall, but I'm still happy we're getting closer to summer and away from the cold and darkness. It's the beginning of the new month which means it's time for a new smoothie recipe. But first I'll tell you a story where this recipe came from.

Last month I travelled to Tartu, Estonia for a long weekend. I spent two days it Tallinn: one on my way there and another on my way back. I was really looking forward to spending time in Tallinn and especially trying out the new vegan restaurant I heard so many good things about. The food there was delicious but I especially loved the way they served water. It was just a standard jug of tap water they usually give for free in restaurants in Estonia, but there were slices of lime swimming in it. For some reason I've never tried putting lime in my water, I tried lemon, but it didn't taste so special. Lime water tasted really good! I think I drank five glasses of it. When I visited Tallinn again I ate in another restaurant which served all types of special diet foods, like paleo, gluten free, raw and of course vegan. I loved that place and the food was delicious and when I asked for tap water they also brought me a jug with lime slices in it. So I decided that's how I'm going to drink water at home from now on. So nowadays I make myself lime water from time to time and what I'm left with are slices of lime that's been soaking for several hours. I figured, why don't I put them in my morning green smoothies? And I came up with this recipe. I love the combination of lime and raspberry in this drink, it makes it slightly bitter and slightly sweet at the same time. Try it, I promise you, it's delicious. You can make it green or just a regular smoothie if you leave out the greens.



Lime and Raspberry (Green) Smoothie

1-2 cups spinach or kale (optional)
1 cup lime water*
1/2 cup water from canned pineapples or more lime water
1/2 cup plant milk of your choice
1 granny smith apple
1/2 cup pineapple (fresh or canned)
1 lime*
1/2 cup frozen raspberries
1/2 cup mango

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Enjoy!

* I use leftovers of the lime water I drink for this smoothie. To make lime water slice one lime into half circles, place into a jug and fill the jug with cold water. Let it stay for a few minutes before drinking. Use the leftover water as well as the soaked lime slices in your smoothie.