The Distraction of Organizing Nothing

We are not a family that is booked to the hilt. We do not have something on the go every night of the week. We do not have copious amounts of gear lining the hallway or sport-specific shoes piled up at the back door.

And that is OK.

I have friends who go from one thing to the next, who have exploding calendars and much to remember, who have even recently “volunteered” to not only go to the sports, but coach them too.

That is also OK.

We all often dance along the line that borders too much and too little. But really, who is to say which is which? Too much for me might be just right for you. Too little for you might be holy crap no thanks for me. If someone looks at my world and thinks wow, how terrible, her kid is not enrolled in ANYTHING, well, I will refute that by saying maybe you should try it sometime.

McK has never been interested in many extra curricular activities. A session of ballet for four year olds which was more cute than plie-knowledge-building. A few rounds of tennis lessons after which she actually taught US how to serve. The odd art lessons which only seemed to frustrate her since all she really wanted was to just draw. And a season of tackle football (be still my heart) which was the most fun *I* have ever had watching her do anything.

All of these were good. They gave us something to plan around and work around and prepare both our week and meals around. So I one hundred percent get it. And I realize now that it is actually easier to organize yourself when there are a few things on your to-do list than when it is a blank space on the calendar.

When we have nothing at all on the go, it becomes incredibly easy to do just that. Nothing.

So I plan things that are your everyday run of the mill tasks. But I get them on the calendar. Otherwise, with the option of attacking the laundry or watching playoff game number 4, I will be couch bound at tip off.

It is very easy to be distracted by nothing.

Laundry. Groceries. Organize her t shirt drawer (yes, that is a thing). I add those to my calendar or I will succumb to the nothingness of an unplanned evening.

Don’t get me wrong. I value my nothingness. I long for it every Friday night and hold tight to it until Sunday. But having concrete tasks to accomplish when there are no extra to-do’s on the go is what motivates me to actually get stuff done. Everyone is different, every style of life planning is OK so long as it works for you, everyone has distinct levels of “things” they want to put on their calendars and different levels of acceptable nothingness.

I will organize my time to ensure the nothingness does not become so distracting that we reach the outskirts of lazy town.

When catching up on things dominates our weekends because we let our weekdays fall into the arms of nothing, we feel cheated of the days we actually hope to have not much on the go.

Don’t book your life up so much that you don’t have time to smell the roses. Just remember to schedule a few minutes on your calendar to trim the plant.

 

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Do what you plan, plan what you do.

 

Summer Days

As the temperature rises (and unexpectedly rapidly drops, as we have recently experienced), the pull to be out of doors rises equally. The annual poke through the dusty bins that hid from the wintry wind in the safety of the shed begins anew and we find treasures long forgotten.

Deflated balls representing all sports, jumpropes and skipballs that likely will remain untouched by the soon-to-be teen, bits and bobs of the bicycle-part variety, frisbees and kites destined to spend the next 6 months in the back of the car for the just in case moments and impromptu park stops.

The garage will be void of shovels and snowblowers, replaced with lawnmowers and gardening tools, and bicycles will once again make getting out of the car a little tricky on the left hand side.

A quick once-over of the current state of our patio set leaves something to be desired. Bird poop from overhead target practice and enough spider webs to make even Charlotte jealous can be cleaned off but the rust on the frame work from seasons spent under a blanket of snow call as loud as the geese flying by for a full replacement.

So the search is on. Chairs, ideally stack-able for winter storage and preferably without cushions that I have to remember to take off when it rains or go collect from about the yard when our summer winds pick up. Table, large enough for 6 without having to pull a lawn chair over to accommodate all of the food offerings that don’t fit on the tiny bits of available space on the table. Umbrella, nope. We spent more time trying to corral that bugger in the wind that we did enjoying its shade and thus, it spent more time on the floor beside the table than upright where it belonged.

And so I wait, flip flops at the ready, cold drink and a good book on standby. Dinner al fresco every weekend. Coffee in the morning sun. Serenaded into the evening by the frogs and other critters.

Deck life.

We are hearty enough to withstand our Winnipeg winters. And as such, we are rightfully rewarded with our Winnipeg summers.

Summertime

Summertime, and the livin’ gets decidedly easier!

An Everything-Free Dinner

Guess who’s coming to dinner?

Yep. My ma, who is currently living a gluten free, egg free and dairy free lifestyle. After years of just living with various ailments, she finally got herself checked out, referred, and diagnosed and as such has had to make a number of dietary adjustments. Which flow into the menus of those who cook for her.

Challenge accepted!

We started off with basics. A homemade pico de gallo and some Que Pasa purple corn chips. To accompany that, we added our long time fave, Freybe’s fine liver sausage and two types of cracker-ish things. My fave of the two was the Wild Riceworks Sea Salt and Black Sesame. Fabulous! The one my ma kept reaching for was the Crunchmaster Multi Seed cracker.

The main course consisted of slow roasted ribs in our favourite Mr. Spice GF BBQ sauce mixed with some blended apple and pineapple. I was pretty skeptical on that one. But they turned into the best ribs we have done thus far. Accompanying the ribs was a salad full of fresh veg and an oil and vinegar dressing. Since my mum can’t even have balsamic anymore, we pulled a portion out after just adding oil. Poor lass.

My fave part, as always, is the roasted potatoes. Nothing beats them really. In there for an hour or so, crisping up the edges, dressed only in oil, salt, pepper and a little seasoning salt because that’s how my pa-in-law makes ’em. Toss with some carrots and you’ve got a full meal deal.

And dessert. Well. Given the difficulty one has finding all natural, edible, raw cacao butter in this city (to make my own white chocolate), the dessert plan changed mid-way.

McK made us some cinnamon tortilla chips using the recipe from her Home Ec class and I whipped up a fruit salsa to go with it. And then good old Lorenzo’s filled in the rest! Along with all of their gluten free baked goods, they actually had a few GF, EF and DF treats! Cupcakes for everyone!

Reading labels has become a regular part of life for many people for a variety of reasons. I read them for carb counts, for wheat ingredients, to see if there is corn listed, to see how many I can’t pronounce (those usually go back on the shelf). To create a meal that incorporates allergies and sensitivities is not an unusual thing for me so this did not seem an insurmountable task.

What I think many forget is that real, whole foods don’t have labels.

Go to those first.

Build your menu around whole, clean items. You’ll be amazed at how little you need outside of that.

eat better feel better

It is really just that simple, isn’t it?

 

How do you incorporate healthy changes or dietary restrictions in your meal planning? Share your tips and tricks in the comments!

Back to Routine

It is rather astonishing, how quickly routine can falter when a piece of it is modified in the slightest way.

I suppose that a week off for McK (Spring Break) is more than just “a piece” of our routine though. When there is no requirement for her to be up at a certain time, things change, the morning doesn’t flow like it typically would.

Add to that we had a day off on Monday, and two days of work-from-home for me and there was really no reason to set my alarm at all. There were no lunches to be made, no bags to sort through, no schedule to keep.

It was a week of waking up when the body decided it was time, having brekkie when you got hungry, watching the sun fill the room at leisure.

But that’s over, we are back at it again. Alarms are on, workout gear set out, coffee prepared, lunch bags open, backpacks ready.

There is something to be said for the blissful state of laissez-faire, where nothing is urgent or planned. Where the contents of your day are decided as they happen and not a moment sooner.

But there is even more to be said for maintaining the routine, day-to-day, scheduled plan where everyone knows what they are to do and what comes next. It doesn’t fit with every family, but it fits with ours.

So yes, I will take my lazy mornings, and 2 coffees before getting dressed, and bacon and eggs with my kiddo. But I will happily jump back into the swing of things when the calendar dictates.

It would appear it dictates it today.

Back at ‘er, fam!

order foundation

Good order indeed!

 

How do you get back into the swing of things after some time where schedules don’t matter and calendars are altered? Do you just jump right in or do you have tricks to ease back into it gently? Do tell!

Meal Planning for Dummies

I am not a chef.

I believe I referenced this in my last post where I highlighted my ability to melt chocolate chips (honest moment: it took awhile to learn how to do that successfully without burning them or making them into solid, gritty piles of nothing).

So when I think of what to make for a weeks worth of dinners, I flounder a little. Add to that my child exists on pasta and my husband has the stomach of a most delicate flower, my options shrink.

I have a roster of “hits” that I can make knowing they will be eaten and appreciated. But even the most steadfast repeat-eater (def: one who can eat the same thing regularly and not get sick of it) will eventually tire of the same 5 meals rotating through their belly.

Every now and then I try to get a little fancy. I attempt to broaden my horizons, expand my reach if you will. Once, I even made mahi-mahi. That’s right. (It’s a fish, I had to look it up back then too). Upon completing the mahi-mahi masterpiece, I was asked if it should be given to the dog or just thrown out. (For real, this happened, and yes, we’re still married.)

Keeping that SUPER successful experiment in mind I occasionally have to reign myself back in and abandon the crazier looking results from my Pinterest searches. These searches now typically involve the keywords gluten free, easy, quick, three ingredient, slow cooker, picky, did I mention easy?

When I meal plan there are two rules:

Keep it simple.

Know your audience.

We typically will have something with beef, something with chicken, something super fast, something that doesn’t require cooking, and something that is typically a little bit piece meal.

This week, for example, we will have:

Chicken, gravy, potatoes and veg (yes, I buy the pre-cooked rotisserie chicken, SO EASY!)

Beef tacos with all the fillings on GF tortillas.

Homemade pizza on GF crust.

Italian sandwhiches on GF sub buns with salad.

End of week usually nets you a grilled cheese and some potato chips. Its Friday. Live a little. Or we’ll pick up some Thai. Either way, low effort, bits and pieces, easy for me.

By adding these meal ideas to my Meal Planner Worksheet I can begin to see what I already have in the house versus what I need to add to my grocery list for the week. Knowing this, I can then determine where I will go to get my groceries. While just about every grocery chain has a plethora of gluten free foods available, there is just one nearby that has the GF tortilla brand that doesn’t crack into a million pieces when you try to actually roll something up in it!

So with my meal plan prepared I can now add the “needs” to my grocery list and I am good to go. Grocery shopping becomes quick and easy and I don’t end up with an abundance of things we won’t use before they go bad or multiples of things we already had tons of in the pantry.

Keeping things on the simple side, knowing the likes and dislikes of who you cook for, being aware of the inventory of your fridge and pantry, these things give you back time in your week and contribute to a smooth transition into dinner time.

No matter who in your house does the cooking, spending a few moments getting prepared each week is something worth investing in. Some people plan a week at a time, some plan a month at a time, some use spreadsheets, some use meal planners like the one I made.

However you choose to equip yourself for the meals ahead, know you are adding efficiency into your life. By doing this one step prior to the start of your week, you have taken an often frazzled and stressful task  and turned it into a simple undertaking.

Simple is good.

Especially when they want to eat every night!

meal planning for dummies

Meal Planning for Dummies makes dinner easier!

 

What do you do to make your mealtimes a success? Any pre-cooking tips? Found any great recipes? Share in the comments!

And download your own copy of my Meal Planner Worksheet! Save yourself some time each week!

Keeping Up Appearances

The word multitasking has become such a catch phrase that everyone and their dog thinks it needs to be on their resume, in their everyday terminology and their biggest sell feature when selling, well, themselves.

But the word has been mangled and misinterpreted for some time now.

People are confusing the word multitasking with “looking busy”.

Running around, pretending to be putting out fire after fire, frantically fixing issues and taking longer than you should for things is not multitasking. It is an inefficient use of time.

What multitasking used to mean was the ability to work on multiple things at once. Which, when you break it down, is actually kind of impossible. But it sure sounds good.

What multitasking actually is, is somewhere along the lines of being able to be fully engrossed in one project while having the ability to stop if something comes up that requires your immediate attention, deal with it, and then return to your original project without skipping a beat.

When you look at it like that, and realize it does not mean jumping from one thing to the next without prioritizing or actually completing a task, you realize a good number of people need to go and do some deleting on their resume.

Stop confusing busy with productive.

Multitasking is not the ideal quality that we have all been led to believe if you are defining it the way we used to. Busy is not the ideal way to run your day. If you can be organized, plan for certain things, allow flexibility and agility when things change, you will be a thousand times more productive than you will be busy.

When you allow yourself the ability to learn how to effectively multitask when the need arises, you will find less fires and less issues. And you will discover more time and more successes.

The glorification of busy ends here.

busy vs productive

Looking “busy” doesn’t mean you are accomplishing things!

 

How do you organize your day so that you are effectively using your time and able to properly multitask? Are you able to stop one project and go to another task or do you lose all track of what you’re doing? Comment above, lets help each other out!

If You Do One Thing…

Making the bed. Emptying the dishwasher. Putting your lunch bag away at the end of each day.

We all have that one thing, that one little annoying task that we know, if we do it, we will feel a million times better than if we left it. There are things I have gotten in the habit of doing, things like making the bed, that I do daily because I like the way it looks and I like the way it feels when I get back into it at the end of each day.

But there is one thing that I negotiate with myself about week after week. I promise myself treats and good things if I just do it and do not procrastinate. I even use positive self talk to convince myself that doing said task now will save me precious time later and will send me into the week on a positive note. I tell myself if I DON’T do it, I will feel like there is always something left to be done, always this nagging little voice saying hey you, yeah you, you forgot about me, I’m still here and I’m not going anywhere.

I’m talking about the dreaded putting away of clean laundry.

Believe me, I can stare at that full basket of clothes for DAYS.

I can pick out just what is needed if anything is required from it.

I can live out of it like a freaking suitcase if I have to.

I start out with good intentions, doing all the laundry on a Sunday, load upon load. And typically, right up until that last basket, I get everything put away, ready for the week ahead.

Until that last basket.

My nemesis.

So my new promise to myself is this. Finish what you start. Don’t leave it for later. Save your precious “later” moments for things that count.

The odd dish or two? They can wait.

The messy blankets all over the couch? They can wait.

If you do one thing…make it something that will affect the rest of your week in a positive way.

Go put the laundry away.

thedreadedlaundrybasket

The dreaded laundry basket…just DO IT.

 

What is the one thing you know you should just do, and yet you still manage to talk yourself out of it week in and week out?

How do you get yourself in the mindset of just doing it and getting it over with? Tips and tricks to share? Comment above!