What’s for Lunch, Kiddo?

What’s for Lunch, Kiddo?

Meal Planning from Infant to School Age and Everything Between

From the get go, feeding kids is one of the most daunting tasks of parenthood.  As a newborn you’re stressing about how much breastmilk or formula they’re getting.  You obsessively track every ounce they eat in those first few months in notebooks that seem like the most important item in your house at the time.  Then, growth spurts happen and their eating habits change and you are once again lost as to how much and how often these small, demanding human beings need food.  And then, as if it’s not stressful enough already, we’re supposed to start introducing solid foods!  But not too fast, and not all at one time.  So many rules!  I was so overwhelmed when we were at this stage with my son.  Of course, some of this was the symptom of being the first child and I felt like I had to do everything perfect the first time.  But some of it was also the stress of having so many people involved with his care and wanting to be sure we were all on the same page about what food he was getting when.  So, I decided to take my monthly meal planning process to another level and add a calendar to the back of pantry door in order to track what food was being introduced on what days.  I found that there are a few advantages to this approach:

  • You caPhoto Apr 05, 8 20 57 PMn easily track an allergic reaction if there is one because you’ll know the exact days the food was introduced, not just an estimate.
  • Everyone who will be involved with feeding your child will be on the same page. My husband and I didn’t have to worry about if one of us wasn’t at home during feeding time to remind the other what food our son had been given because we could just look.  Also, you can easily take a picture and send it to grandparents and other caregivers so they also know.
  • If you want to take it another step further when your child is eating mostly baby food, you can plan their full meals just the way you plan your family’s meals by listing everything your child will eat in a day. I liked doing this because it kept my son from being fed the same thing every day and it made a grocery list really east to make each week.
  • This last step would be especially helpful for those parents who like to make their own baby food. If you make your menu before you cook, you have a clear plan for shopping and cooking ready to go.

So, once you make it past the baby food stage and you get into the stage when your kids can eat just about anything that’s on the table, there’s a fantastic sense of freedom.  You feel like you can eat out whenever you want (until you remember that you still have a toddler with you).  I remember this sense of freedom.  It was so refreshing.  And then my son started a new school (that I absolutely LOVED) but it had one set back – we had to provide lunch.  And not only did I have to make lunch, there were rules (again with the rules!) about what had to be in that lunch.  The requirements were to provide a protein, a grain and two vegetables and/or fruits. I found myself spending way too much time each night trying to be creative while providing something my kid would actually eat and while still providing what was required.  And so, the same calendar that had once directed our transition to baby food became the “Lunch Menu” calendar.  I set it up in a similar way to our monthly meal plan calendar which you can read about here.  To get started you will need a dry erase monthly calendar, a small blank dry erase board, and dry erase markers in 4 colors (I have black, blue, red and green).

  • Photo Apr 05, 8 50 21 PMFirst, I set up a master list of all the options of food in each of the categories (proteins, grains, veges, fruits). It’s important to only list items that you know your child will eat! I color code each category with a  color that will also be used on the calendar.  Mine are blue for proteins, red for grains, and green for veges and fruit.
  • Next, I fill out the calendar with the dates that my child is going to school.
  • Then, I look at my family’s monthly meal plan and place any food that would be leftovers that I know my child would eat on the corresponding days on his lunch calendar. For example, if we are going to have BLTs one night for dinner, I’ll write down that he will have bacon (turkey bacon if you want to really know) in his lunch the day after.
  • After that I go through and mark all the food that’s on the calendar so far with what categories they fall under. So, the bacon would be marked with a blue dot because it’s a protein.  If it’s something like a burrito, it would be Photo Apr 05, 8 45 04 PMmarked with a blue dot and a red dot because the meat would be protein and the tortilla would be a grain.
  • Then, I fill in the rest of the days using the master list. I keep in mind that if I open a can of carrots that I’ll get 2 or 3 servings out of it, so he’ll have carrots a couple of times in a week. Photo Apr 05, 8 55 12 PM
  • Once I’ve filled in all the food, I mark each food with its category. Then, I double check that a blue, red and 2 green dots appear each day so that all the requirements are met.

 

 

As your child gets older and starts preparing their own lunches, this is still a great tool to keep them from getting burned out on the same PB&J and chips.  It also helps them think ahead and plan so they can learn how to plan “recipes” and grocery lists at an early age.

While this takes about an hour each month to complete (and an extra 30 minutes the first time to set up the master list of food) the amount of time and stress it saves on a nightly basis is worth it!  You can go on autopilot, just look at the calendar, make the lunch listed and be done.  It also makes grocery shopping easy because all you do as you are making your list for the next week is look at the lunches for the following week and make sure you have all the listed ingredients and items.  AND, you should never get a pesky note that your child’s lunch had to be supplemented because you forgot one of the required food categories!

 

Picture This: A Calendar for Kids!

Picture This: A Calendar for Kids!

A few months ago I transitioned to a new job.  While I was so excited about the new opportunity, I also struggled with the transition that it was going to mean for my son.  He had to go from a childcare situation that was almost one-on-one and in the same building as my job to a more full time situation away from where I would be.  He was soon surrounded by new teachers, new kids, new classroom, new rules, new expectations, and a new schedule.  It was too much for him and it was a rough couple of months for our family.  It broke my heart to watch him struggle day in and day out with what was going on, why he wasn’t going to his “old school” and all the other questions he continued to have.  We were patient and we knew that it would indeed get better, but there were plenty of days and nights filled with tears – not just his!

It was during this time, while my heart was hurting for my child who just couldn’t grasp all the new in his world, that I started to search for any way to give him some sense of control and consistency from day to day.  One of the issues that he seemed to have was understanding the new schedule of school – some days there is chapel, some days there is music class, some days is show and tell, then some days it wasn’t a school day!  So many things to remember and track for a toddler!  So, I decided to make him his own calendar so we could look at it each night and he could know what to expect for the next day.  Since he cannot read yet, it was important to make it so that he could understand it by himself – so I decided that instead of the traditional dates, I would use pictures to show what was happening each day.  I set it up one night and showed it to him the next morning.  The relief in his face was obvious and he asked a ton of questions about each picture.  Now, he looks forward to the part of the nighttime ritual when he takes the current day’s square off the calendar since the day is over and then we talk about what’s on the calendar for the following day.  Even though he’s moved past the anxiety of his new school, the calendar is something he still enjoys because he loves to know what’s going on and what to look forward to each week.  It’s also been a great way to teach about the days of the week, weekday versus weekends, and we’ve already started having the discussion of prioritizing.  A recent example of teaching prioritizing: While setting up this month’s calendar, we had to take the soccer ball off one of our weekend days signifying not going to soccer practice and replaced it with balloons and a party hat signifying a birthday party for a family friend.   A great way to help a child learn about having to pick and choose early on before the schedule gets truly crazy!

Photo Apr 03, 8 15 20 PMThere are several ways to go about setting up a calendar similar to the one we havePhoto Apr 03, 7 15 39 PM.          I went the easy and least creative way by visiting our local teacher supply store and buying one of the calendar sets that include a calendar, titles for the 12 months, squares for the dates (I just use the blank side), etc.  You could easily make a calendar out of a posterboard (be sure to get everything laminated so it can be reused!) and some patience.  If you choose this route, you have fun with that and God bless you for your commitment to creativity.  I’m totally jealous of your kind!

Once you decide how you’re going to get the basics, here’s how I set everything up:

  • I hung our calendar on the inside of my son’s closet door in his room.  It makes it easy for him it see and reach but it’s not actually taking up wall space. Photo Apr 03, 8 16 38 PM
  • Before you begin, I want to remind you that this calendar is for a toddler, or small child at least.  Try your best to look at it through their eyes.  As you are trying to find pictures that represent their daily activities, find pictures of what makes sense to them, even if it doesn’t make complete sense to you.  For example, if you have a trip to zoo planned, pick a picture of the animal that your child gets most excited about seeing when your visit the zoo instead of a generic picture of a zoo.
  • If there’s not a picture that your child directly associates with an event or place, pick one and stick with it.  They will pick up on it and commit it to memory quite quickly!Photo Apr 03, 7 46 56 PM
  • Get all your clipart for the maximum number of days possible.  For example, I made 25 “daycare” days because that gives me plenty (with a few extra) days made to use on the weekdays .   I picked a generic schoolhouse for our daycare days.  I told my son once what that picture stood for and now he just knows what it means when he sees it on his calendar.
  • Photo Apr 03, 7 26 55 PMI bought stickers to add to the daycare days that have weekly occurring events such as music class and chapel.  (Again, you can make these yourself or print them from the computer…I just saved a step and some time.)
  • Then, I added our son’s regular chore – feeding his pet frog.  Soon, we will add additional chores but for now, this has works as a good reminder for what days the frog gets fed and a good way to keep the frog from getting fed every day!
  • Once, you’ve set up the regular days that you’ll use every month, you’ll need to sit down with your calendar and see what is on your calendar for the specific upcoming month.  I sit with my calendar up and a word document up and insert clipart as I come across a special occasion – a holiday, sports practice, family event (baseball game, play, etc.).  Once I’ve made clip art for everything for the month, I print it, cut them out and tape them on top of the days I’ve already put on the calendar.  It’s important to only put events that pertain directly to your kids on this calendar.  They don’t need to have a picture interpretation of every detail of the family schedule. So, some Saturdays are just blank if nothing is happening in my son’s schedule – and that’s a good thing!
  • Another great way we use the calendar is to help him understand when one of us (me or my husband) travel.  I have printed out 2 pictures of an airplane and 2 pictures of my car.  Then, on days that I leave on a trip, I put my mode of transportation and a picture of the state to which I’m traveling on the calendar.  Then, on the day I’m going to return I put a picture of my mode of transportation and a picture of our house to show that momma comes home that day.

As each day is taken off, I keep them in an envelope in my desk so they can be easily sorted for the next month.  Now that the majority of them are made it takes me 30-45 minutes to do a new month’s calendar depending on how many pieces of clipart I have to find and if my son wants to help pull the tape off the dispenser as I’m trying to pull the new days back on the calendar!

Photo Apr 03, 8 46 17 PM

You’ve Got…NO…Mail!

You’ve Got…NO…Mail!

Simple Steps to Getting and Keeping a Clear Inbox

While not everyone can see our inbox like they can see our desk, it is just as important to keep our inbox clean Too much mailand organized on a daily basis.  Making this a priority keeps us from missing information, helps us answer emails promptly and keeps our anxiety level down because we know we have actually addressed everything that has come across our virtual desk for the day.  It also keeps that obnoxious red bubble on our phone from showing up.  I hate that thing, seriously. (For the record, this is a picture one of my friend’s sent me to make my eye twitch, I’m not sure if my bubble has ever even seen double digits!)

As I stated in my post “There’s no stress in a clean desk” I believe that there are 3 steps that you must follow each day to keep an organized work area.  When I say “clean” I mean that at the end of every day, these three areas are cleared, double checked, and ready for the next day.  These areas are your desk, your to-do list and your inbox.  Today, we’ll tackle step 2 of 3, your inbox.

Getting and keeping your inbox clean is actually very similar to the steps to cleaning your desks – it requires lots of folders!  Let’s get started.

How to get your inbox clear the FIRST time:

  • This process will depend on how many emails are sitting in your inbox right now. This might take a day of staring at the computer or it might take several days of working through emails while watching tv after the kids are in bed.  However, you do it, MAKE A PLAN.  Set a deadline for yourself, get your total number, then set a goal for how many you have to sort through a day to finish by your deadline. And add that task to your to do list each day until your inbox is completely clear.
  • It’s sometimes easier to clear out at night when new emails are slower to come in to your inbox. Another trick that you might you use to keep from being distracted or to keep from accidentally deleting new emails if you’re deleting several at a time is to use inboxpause.com.  This website allows you to pause your new emails from showing up in your inbox, then to unpause them when you’re ready to see them again.  (It’s also a handy tool when you’re working on a project and need to keep from being distracteFor Newsletterd.)
  • Follow UpCreate a folder called “Follow Up.” This folder will be used just as the “Follow Up” folder on your desk should.  It will be a place for emails that need to be answered and don’t need to be “filed” away to a permanent file yet.  IMPORTANT: When you put an email in the follow up folder, you should put that item on your to do list to be sure the email gets answered and not forgotten.  For example, if I am waiting to find out a piece of information for party A I will file her email in the “Follow Up” folder until I get the information I need.  But when I move the email to the “Follow Up” folder, I add to my to do list for tomorrow, “Answer Party A’s email about Blah Blah.”  In addition, I answer Party A’s email saying I will follow up with her tomorrow with the answer so that she knows I haven’t forgotten her and so she knows when to expect an answer.
  • Also create folders for anything you have to hold on to for regularly occurring projects.  For example, part of my job is to put out an email newsletter twice a month.  People send me emails with articles, ads, pictures, etc. to put in the newsletter.  As soon as I get an email with info for the next newsletter, I file it in the “For Newsletter” folder.  This way, when I’m working on the next newsletter, all the information I need for that edition is all in one place but it isn’t sitting in my inbox for 2 weeks and I don’t have to worry about forgetting something.
  • Delete the emails you no longer need. If you are deleting junk, take the time to unsubscribe to them also.  Unless you actually look at the information they send you, all you’re doing is setting your inbox up for more junk to arrive later.
  • As you continue to sort through emails, make any necessary folders and subfolders necessary to make emails easy to find. Be sure to put the year on trips or events that occur each year so it’s easier to sort.  One way to keep from having too many folders on the sidebar to sort through is to put all finished events of the year in a folder called “Past Events” or “Completed.”  Obviously, this will depend on your work area.  A ministry example: I would have an active folder for each mission trip for the upcoming year.  Then I have a folder called “Past Mission Trips.”  Once the mission trips for the summer were finished all the active mission trip folders are moved into the one “Past Mission Trips” folder.  I can still find them if needed, but since I won’t be working on them regularly I won’t have as much to sort through each day as I’m looking through folders.

How to keep your inbox clean EVERY day:

  • In the 15 minutes before you leave each day the ritual of cleaning the three areas – your desk, your to do list and your inbox, should begin.
  • Delete any junk emails, unsubscribe from any you don’t need to continue receiving.
  • You should answer any email that can be quickly addressed in about 30 seconds.
  • File any emails that need to be filed in existing folders.
  • Create any new folders if necessary and file emails in those folders.
  • Place any emails that cannot be addressed before you leave in your “Follow Up” folder and be sure to mark those tasks on your to do list for tomorrow. Be sure to respond to those emails letting the senders know when to expect a reply.

 

 

Just Say, “What’s For Dinner?” 12 Times A Year

Just Say, “What’s for Dinner?” 12 Times a Year

A Step by Step Guide to a More Practical Way for Meal Planning

When I first learned about Pinterest, I pinned every possible pin I could find that had to do with meal planning.  I just knew that I was going to find the perfect fix to my constant annoyance known as dinner.  I despised coming home just to stand in front of the pantry as if boxes and cans were going to just fall off the shelves at my feet as if to say, “cook me!”  We ended up going out to eat way too much simply because we did not have a plan from week to week.  We were wasting food because I didn’t know what we had so things would spoil or expire before I cooked them.  When I got started on Pinterest, I spent hours looking through meal plans that gave recipes and shopping lists.  But I couldn’t find anything that really worked.  And it finally occurred to me that the reason these plans wouldn’t work is because the plans were based on the food, not on my family’s schedule.  And so I was constantly trying to figure out a way to make these great plans with great meals work in a schedule that was unique to just us.  So I decided to make my own meal plans and to start from the schedule side of life, then to plan the meals.  And so, here’s another blog with another meal plan!  But this time, I hope to teach you how to create the layers  of a plan so that the meals themselves are not what you’re trying to recreate.  Instead, you are recreating a system so that no matter what the meals are, your family can stick to a plan, save money, and have less stress when it comes to meal times.

To get started, you will need a few supplies and you’ll have to do a little prep work.  Once the prep work is done, this process should take you an hour or less each month.  Imagine only having to think, “What’s for dinner?” just twelve times a year!!!

PPhoto Mar 30, 8 03 15 PMrep:

  • You will need a dry erase monthly calendar, a small blank dry erase board, and dry erase markers in 4 colors (I have black, blue, red and green).
  • Find a place to hang both the blank board and the calendar near your kitchen. I have mine on the inside of the pantry doors.  You need them to be easily accessible and easy to get to so you can not only see them but so that you can write on them. Photo Mar 30, 8 25 40 PM
  • You need to do a full freezer clean out and evaluation.
  • Make a list of everything in your freezer(s) and categorize on the blank white board.

 

Okay, now that you’re caught up, here’s what you’ll do each month:                                      

  • You’ll need your 4 dry erase markers and your calendar before you begin.
  • Photo Mar 30, 5 41 57 PMAfter you clean off the board from last month, you’ll write the new month at the top and put the dates on the calendar. I use the black marker for this layer.
  • Next, using the red marker, you’ll mark any events during the month that will keep you from having to cook dinner at all. This would be if your family is attending an event where dinner will be served or you know that you’ll be out of town, etc.
  • Then, using the blue marker, you’ll mark any events during the month that will directly affect your dinner prep time, number of family members present, etc. These events don’t mean that you don’t have to cook dinner, but you need to be mindful that you probably won’t have time to cook a 6 course meal on those nights. These could be nights with sports practices, one parent working late or out of town (OofT), etc.     **Sidenote – In my effort to be as real as possible I shared this month’s meal plan even though it wasn’t the most normal of months for us.  You’ll see that this month’s calendar is a bit out of control with the blue events.  It so happens that I will be out of town a lot.  While this isn’t normal, it’s a good example of how you have to work your meals around what’s going on so that it’s practical to stick with the plan.  That’s why you’ll see that both times that I’m out of town (MM OofT) burritos and boys’ night out to IHOP are both on the schedule…those are traditions when mom’s out of town that always happen.  I used to plan other food, and found that IHOP still happened, so I adjusted and made it part of the schedule.  That’s how a real meal plan will actually work.**
  • Next, using the green marker, I put a dollar sign on pay days and indicate the days that I’ll be going grocery shopping. This helps me be mindful of how many meals I plan that would require purchasing new ingredients (especially meat) so that I spread out the expense from pay period to pay period.  Putting the grocery store on the calendar helps me keep know exactly what items have to be purchased for the meals on the board between store visits.  Seeing store visits on the board also helps keep in mind to plan meals that need fresher ingredients closer to when I will have just been to the store.
  • Finally, I use the black marker to put the meals on the calendar. See below for further details on how this process works.

 

Here’s how I think through what meals go on the board each month:

  • I ask my family if there’s anything in particular they want to add to the list of meals this month.
  • I challenge myself to pick at least one new recipe from one of my Pinterest boards to try this month.
  • I try to only choose 1 or 2 “new” meals each pay period that would require purchasing meat and new ingredients. When I make a “new” meal, I always double it so that we can eat it and so that I can freeze a batch.  A “new” meal to me would be a new recipe or a recipe that I’ve cooked before but that I don’t have made in the freezer already.
  • I try to put meals that require extra prep or cook time on Saturdays or Sundays so that I can cook on the weekends and enjoy the leftovers on weeknights.
  • I love planning crockpot meals on Monday nights…there’s nothing better than coming home to a house that smells good and hot food! And if the meal takes some prep, you can do that on Sunday so that all you have to do is pull it out of the fridge on Monday morning and turn the crockpot on.
  • I use the list of freezer food to fill in the majority of the month’s meals. These meals get replenished throughout the month as I freeze doubled meals and as I freeze leftovers that we just don’t have time to finish.
  • Photo Mar 30, 8 24 06 PMAs I choose meals or meat to use from the freezer list and put them on this month’s calendar, I draw a red line through them. And as I plan a “new” meal that will be doubled I write it on the freezer list in green.  I don’t erase anything or write in black until I go to make the next month’s calendar because I’ve found that as the month goes, things will shift and some meals won’t happen as planned.  If I already had the meals erased, they wouldn’t get put back on the board and I would find that they would get forgotten about in the freezer until they were too old to be eaten.  So, I wait to be sure they really get used this month, and then I erase them.  Same as the “new” meal… I wait to be sure it gets made, so that it doesn’t get added now but then really doesn’t get made this month for some reason.  That way I won’t plan on it for meal for a future month and be disappointed when it’s not really in the freezer even though it was on the list.
  • About twice a year I plan freezer meal prep days to restock the freezer (I’ll share those recipes and tips, no worries!) and give me a kind of cushion to build off of when going into the next 6 months of meal planning.  I try to do this in spring and fall when the electric bill is the lowest so we are more likely to have an extra $150-$200 in the budget to spend on extra food those months.

 

After the first month, you’ll get the swing of things and I guarantee it will make meal time so much more pleasant when the only guesswork left is, “who’s cooking?”

Good luck!  And feel free to comment if you have ideas to share or have questions or need suggestions for your particular situation. I’d love to help!

No More Manic Mondays…Managing the Madness of Home, Work and Everything in Between

I can’t believe that I’ve become one of the people that says, “I have a blog.”  Really, I have never been in the world of blogs and never thought of myself as a writer and definitely not a blogger.  Yet, somehow, here I am…on a blog.  Actually just to ease myself into this world, I’m calling it a website for now in my head and when I talk about it to the 3 people I think might care.  (Well, the 2 people I think might care and my husband who is sweet enough to listen and smart enough at this point in our marriage to know he should just nod and just go with it.)

This “website” has been a dream of mine for over two years.   I have a passion (or neurosis if you want to get technical or ask family members) for organization.  I LOVE for things to have a place, to be clean, to have order and to be just so.  I find comfort in organized life.  Recently, I’ve found that I also really enjoy sharing my ideas about how to be organized with other people.  I began to teach classes about organization in ministry settings (my professional world) while also lending a hand to some friends’ in their personal lives.  I started giving tips in meal planning, closet organizing, to do list management, etc.  And I found out that I might not just be crazy (okay, well I am) but maybe my crazy could actually help someone else feel less crazy or at least focus your crazy somewhere else. And so, I thought, why don’t I start that bl…I mean website after all and see how it goes?  If I share one tip from my neurotic world that helps one mom, one minister, one person looking for a better way to manage the insanity around them then it was worth the time and effort.

One more thing, I want to make it clear that I do not think I have all the answers.  Nor do I have a spotless house at all times, laundry that is always caught up, Pinterest worthy dinners every night, to do lists that are always completed, etc.  I have been asked before to share ideas with other moms about how “I do it all.” My simple answer to that is I don’t.  I never did and never will.   I, too, get overwhelmed and stressed, I constantly fight the battle with mommy guilt, I worry about being a better spouse, I struggle on a daily basis with balancing a career to which God has called me and my family to whom I’m called.

I promise to be practical.  I promise to be real.  I promise to share in hopes that there’s just one tidbit that might make the manic Mondays, or any other days, of your life a little less crazy.

There’s No Stress in a Clean Desk

There’s No Stress in a Clean Desk

Simple Steps to Getting and Keeping a Clean Desk

Ah…work.  Whether it’s quarter-time, part-time, full-time or something in between it’s still just that…work!  And the more organized you can be at work the more productive you can be there which means you can do less work at home!  And let’s face it, now that you’re going to be getting all these fantastic tips on how to get organized at home too you’re going to want to have some time to get your stuff together there too.  You don’t have time to be catching up work at home…you have mail to check and cute baskets of goodies to make for the next baby shower!  (If you don’t know what I’m talking about be sure to get caught up in the Home and Kids categories after you finish here.)

So how do you stay organized at work?  Well, that’s way more complicated than one post, so I’m going to lay out the basics.  I believe that there are three main areas that must stay “clean” in a work space.  Some people have different work spaces than others.  I’m going to talk from the experience of my workspace but you might have to adapt the ideas to your own.  When I say “clean” I mean that at the end of every day, these three areas are cleared, double checked, and ready for the next day.  These areas are your desk, your to-do list and your inbox.  Today, we’ll tackle your desk.

(Now, I’m going to just stop here and say that if you’re one of those people who want to quote one of those articles about how messy offices or spaces breed creativity and different people work different way that’s perfectly fine with me.  I will respectfully disagree with you and continue not to comprehend how anyone can function with piles and piles of stuff on their desk.  Not my thing, never will be. It makes my eye twitch.) Let’s carry on, shall we?

How to get your desk clean the FIRST time:

  • Before you get started you’ll need some file folders (I like different colors so I can categorize within my drawers), some drawer organizers for office supplies, and a file organizer for the top of your desk.
  • Clean out all the drawers – put all office supplies such as stapler, pens, paper clips, scissors, etc. together
  • Stack all folders that already have paper in them in one pile and all loose paper in a separate pile
  • Once everything is out of the desk, clean it really well…I mean when are you really going to have your desk that empty again?
  • Put your office supplies back in your drawers using your drawer organizers
  • Now, go through all the folders that already have paper in them and throw away any papers that you no longer need
  • Lay out all the folders on a table or the floor (sweep the floor if you need to before you do this, no need to put dirt back into a clean desk!)
  • Put the loose papers in the folders to which they belong, if you come to a paper that doesn’t have a folder get one of the new folders and make a new one right then, add it to the table or floor and keep going until there are no loose papers
  • Photo Jan 07, 5 11 42 PMPut all the folders back in your desk, organized either alphabetically or by color
  • Place the file organizer on top of your desk and put only the files of projects that are coming up in the next month or two in the organizer so they are easily accessible
  • Take one more folder (I like the color red for “Important”) and label it “To Do” or “Follow Up’
  • Congrats! You cleaned your desk!

 

How to keep your desk clean EVERY day:

  • In the 15 minutes before you leave each day the ritual of cleaning the three areas – your desk, your to do list and your inbox, should begin
  • You should go through anything left on your desk and find its place either in a desk drawer, in someone else’s office, a file folder, etc.
  • A key to maintaining a clean desk is keeping empty file folders on hand so that any time there are papers that need a new folder you have one and don’t have a reason to just make a pile until you get a new folder
  • If there’s a piece of paper that you need in order to finish something later in the week or that’s not ready to be filed yet, that’s when you use your “To Do” or “Follow Up” folder in your file organizer– this will help keep loose papers off your desk but keep them from getting lost all together

Shower Them with Lov…Practical!

Shower Them with Lov…Practical!

A Basket of Practical Gifts for Every Mom-to-Be

Oh, baby!  No, I’m not pregnant, just to cover that one.  And while we’re discussing this, no, I will not answer the question about whether we’re going to have any more children.  If we do, I promise we won’t hide the child from the world forever so no worries, you’ll know.  Now that we’ve covered that awkwardness, back to babies!  You are probably like me in that you know someone that is pregnant (I feel like I am surrounded by preggos right now!)  And pregnant people mean one thing – baby showers!

Now, before those of you who don’t have kids roll your eyes and stop reading because it’s just another post about babies and showers and blah, blah, blah…I encourage you to read on because this is about what to buy for these showers – for real!

Before I had a kid I was the one who oohed and ahhed over the cute outfits and spent way too much money on clothes that were not practical or toys that made no actual sense for a child until they were 2 years old.  Then, I had a baby and I finally got it.  The next time I went shopping for a baby shower, I ditched the registry list and bought the stuff that I wish someone had told me I needed to have on hand.

(Now, a quick note that if you don’t use this recommendation of items I recommend buying off the registry.  It’s annoying when you’ve worked hard on making a list of things you need and then you get random stuff that doesn’t go with the theme of the nursery or you get a million of one thing.  Plus it means that the mother to be has to make another waddling trip into an overcrowded store with swollen ankles to return or exchange stuff.  Don’t be that person!)

Now my go to baby shower gift is a basket filled with the following items:

Photo Mar 01, 8 40 58 PM

A Good Party? Yes, Please!

A Good Party? Yes, Please!

About a year ago a few friends and I formed a book club.  We began doing the traditional book club “thing” – meeting once a month at a different member’s home, reading a different book picked by that month’s host and discussing what we thought of the book.  At our first gathering, the host started the tradition of connecting one of the food themes of that month’s book to the food served at that night’s book club meeting.  As a person who LOVES to host parties and LOVES a good theme party even more this was right up my alley!  I’ve hosted twice so far.  The first book was a great, quick beachy kind of read. (I’ll write about it when it’s a bit warmer.)  It had lots of food to pick from and was really fun to put together.  But, the book club meeting I recently hosted was based on Amy Poehler’s Yes, Please.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved the book!  It was funny, honest and a great read.  But the only things she talks about consuming are bad Chinese take-out and illegal drugs – and neither of those is appropriate at a party I’m hosting! So I had to get really creative with this one!

I decided to get inspiration from movies and television shows that Amy has starred in rather than pulling from her book directly.  That gave me way more to work with (and a reason to watch way too many YouTube videos of old SNL clips!)

So without further adieu, the Amy Poehler themed Book Club Party:

Chicky Chicky Parm Parm Bites (aka Chicken Parmesan Bites) 

From Parks and Recreation

Photo Jan 18, 7 31 28 PM

Find the recipe here.

Sidenote: These are delicious, super easy, quick to make and very kid friendly!

Chicken and Vege Egg Rolls (aka Chinese Take Out)

From Yes, Please

 Photo Jan 18, 7 31 35 PM

Vegetable Tray (aka Food That Looks “Weird and Healthy”)

From Baby Mama

Photo Jan 18, 7 27 55 PM Photo Jan 18, 7 27 45 PM

Rock Candy (aka Ice)

From Blades of Glory

Photo Jan 18, 7 27 33 PM

Find the recipe here.

Why I Sort the Mail in the Garage

Why I Sort the Mail in the Garage:

Keeping the Clutter Out of the House!

I have enough junk in my house. I don’t need more paper, ads, or crap to fill up counter space, the kitchen table or the precious garbage bag.  So, I have a rule: the mail stays in the garage!

It’s pretty simple, saves you from wasting counter space, keeps the garbage bag from filling up faster, keeps you from piling up more junk to have to sort through later, and keeps you from missing important things in the mail – if such things still come through snail mail any more.

This is how it goes for me:

  • I pull into the driveway, get out, grab the mail, get back into the car, pull into the garage and turn off the car.
  • Photo Mar 25, 10 24 39 AMI sort through and pull out the junk that I don’t need to read at all.  (At this point if my 3 year old son is in the back seat I usually give him a piece of the junk mail because he’s asking to “help” me open the mail.)
  • Then, I open all other pieces of mail.  I put bills with their return envelopes with my phone so I know that they’ll get carried straight into the house.
  • If there are other cards, for example an appointment reminder, I look at my calendar on my phone to see if the appointment is on there, then add the card to the recycle pile.  No need to carry it inside or add something to my to-do list when you can just take care of it right there!
  • If there are any other items that can’t be taken care of in 30 seconds or less I put them with my bills that are with my phone and take them inside.
  • Now I get out of the car, put the discard pile in Photo Mar 25, 10 24 51 AMthe recycling bin and carry the others with my phone inside the house.
  • Once inside, the bills go straight to my desk in their designated bill folder so they’ll be there when pay day rolls around.
  • All other items go into the pocket of my niffy planner and on my to-do list. (I’ll talk about my love for a good planner and how to make a good to do list soon – promise!)

In less than 5 minutes a day, I have checked the mail, recycled some paper, filed some bills, and not created piles anywhere in my house or extra work for myself later in the week.