Quick and easy meals for when you don’t feel like cooking

For those nights when you really don’t feel like cooking, here’s a list of a week’s worth of quick and easy meals that are super kid-friendly.
For those nights when you really don’t feel like cooking, here’s a list of a week’s worth of quick and easy meals that are super kid-friendly.

I love cooking. I really do…but if my husband is working late…I have about zero motivation to cook a nice dinner for me and my two little boys. Go figure…my four-year-old and two-year-old don’t really appreciate the subtle flavors of chicken and asparagus roulades.

My husband is usually home for dinner (family dinner is something I feel really strongly about),  but the first week of the month is busy for him at work, and there are usually a few evenings he has to work late. Continue reading

The secret to getting everything done

After years of struggling with how to “do it all”, I’ve finally figured out a simple idea (though still not easy in practice) for how to get everything done.
After years of struggling with how to "do it all", I've finally figured out a simple idea (though still not easy in practice) for how to get everything done.Being a mom is busy. It may not seem like a big deal to keep the house relatively clean, make sure everyone has clean clothes, and get some form of nourishment on the table three times a day, but try doing all of that with multiple small children in tow…and it turns into an Olympic event.

That’s not counting all the teaching that comes with mothering…teaching manners, reading, arithmetic, appropriate social behavior, personal care, and a slew of other little and big lessons that need to be addressed regularly.

That’s also not counting the need to take care of our own minds, bodies, and spirits, too—pursuing personal goals and hobbies, building relationships with friends and spouses, and contributing to the community.

Add in birthday parties, PTA meetings, church activities, family vacations, yard work, home décor…and the list could go on forever.

Have I stressed you out yet? I’m starting to get a little shaky here myself.

There is simply so much to DO in life. How can we possibly manage it all?

This is something I’ve struggled with for a long time. I’m a perfectionist by nature, and I get a lot of satisfaction out of accomplishing productive and measurable tasks…and doing them well. The problem is that I end up feeling stressed and overwhelmed sometimes often because I simply can’t find the time to do everything.

Thankfully, I had an epiphany recently, and I’ve now discovered the secret to getting everything done.

It’s so simple really!

Are you ready?

The secret of how to get everything done:

In order to get everything done in your limited time, you have to redefine what constitutes “everything” until you reduce the “everything” to an amount that is humanly possible to achieve.

I have been looking for an easier solution for years,  but I’m finally realizing that the hard truth is that you can’t get “everything” done until you have whittled away all the non-essentials that don’t fit with your primary goals in life.

I can’t control how many hours are in a day, but I can control where I place my priorities in life and how I spend that time.

In his book Essentialism, Greg McKeown asserts, “Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. It doesn’t mean just doing less for the sake of less either. It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.”

I love this! Basically, he’s saying that we have to make a value judgement about what things are really worth the time we’re putting into them. We’re not being less productive by doing less; we’re doing the important things better and allowing ourselves to let go of the things that don’t mesh with our purpose in life.

McKeown asks, “What if we stopped celebrating being busy as a measurement of importance? What if instead we celebrated how much time we had spent listening, pondering, meditating, and enjoying time with the most important people in our lives?”

I’m SO guilty of this. I get a little high from crossing items off of my to-do list, no matter how small or mundane they may be. But too often, those tasks distract me from the things that really bring me the most fulfillment in life. It’s hard to cross off “raise healthy happy, children” because it’s never completed. So, instead I search for more tangible tasks that “prove” that I’m doing my job as a mom, like “do the laundry” or “organize the toy closet”. The problem is that these tangible tasks take me away from the more abstract–but essential—tasks of loving my kids and giving them my undivided attention for at least a little while.

How can we change our addiction to so-called “productivity”?

Writing about this at all makes me feel totally hypocritical, because I’m so NOT great at doing it, but I’ve felt really strongly lately about the need to improve in this are of my life, so I’ve make a little plan for myself to put these ideas into action.

Step One: Ask yourself, what are my primary goals in life right now?

For myself, I thought of three:

  • To care for my family & teach my children
  • To have new experiences and learn new skills (currently writing and photography are the top of the list)
  • To develop my faith and live my beliefs more fully (with an emphasis on serving others within my sphere of influence)

Step Two: Make a mental list (or an actual written one) of everything you did yesterday. How many of the things on your list did NOT contribute toward one of your main goals. Now, my goals are pretty broad, so I could try to make some things fit into a category. However, if I’m honest with myself, I know that I’m not always spending my time on things that correlate with my goals.

Step Three: Cross everything off your to-do list that doesn’t fit with your goals. For me, it is really liberating to visually let go of those things that have been hanging over my head by

Step Four: Move forward with your lighter load. Now that you’ve cut out all the excess stuff, you can get to work on the things that matter most without the distractions of all the minutiae.

The great part about this method is that it doesn’t mean that you CAN’T ever do anything beyond your main goals. You absolutely can. The point is that you want to focus on doing those essential things first. Then, if you feel so inclined, you can use any available time left over to paint your toe nails, scroll through Facebook, or deep clean the fridge.

When I was in college, I was really stressed out about everything on my plate at the time and complaining about how I just didn’t have time to do it all. One of my best friends responded, “Do you have time, find time, or make time?”

In that moment, her comment just made me even crankier, but as I reflected on her words, I’ve realized how true they are.

We all “have” the same amount of time, and we can’t be passive about how we spend it. We have to proactively carve out and “make” time for the things that will really help up make for ourselves the life that we want to live. For me, that’s a life where I spend my time savoring my little boys (and my awesome husband), experiencing life and learning new things, and trying to lighten the burdens of others. When I think of all that I do (or want to do) in terms of these ideals, it’s easier to let the less important things drop off in favor of building memories with the people I love most.

What do you think? Are there things you find take your time and attention away from pursuing your ideal life? How do you stay focused?

After years of struggling with how to "do it all", I've finally figured out a simple idea (though still not easy in practice) for how to get everything done.

I regularly link up here.

Mom’s Emergency Car Kit

Moms have to be prepared for anything, right? This easy-to-make emergency car kit will give you peace of mind while you’re out adventuring with your kids.

Moms have to be prepared for anything, right? This easy-to-make emergency car kit will give you peace of mind while you're out adventuring with your kids. Whether it’s a splinter from the park, a car-sick kid while you’re driving on a twisty mountain road, or an impressive diaper blowout right as you get to your sister’s wedding reception, Mom is supposed to be the one with all the tricks up her sleeve to take care of the problem and have everyone up and running again in no time.

I usually am that mom. I have my trusty diaper bag with extra diapers, wipes, bandaids, hand sanitizer, and various other mommy needs. However, I’ve found myself a few times lately completely unprepared. Continue reading

Blueberry French Toast Muffins

These blueberry french toast muffins with streusel topping are a great way to turn leftover french bread into a delicious breakfast or brunch that is sure to impress!These blueberry french toast muffins with streusel topping are a great way to turn leftover french bread into a delicious breakfast or brunch that is sure to impress.

Have you ever had an idea that was so good in your head that you weren’t sure if it could live up to your dreams…but then reality actually was just as good as you’d hoped?

That was these muffins.

They were born out of three desires:

First, to use up a loaf of french bread that was leftover from earlier in the week.

Second, to use some of the blueberries that my brother-in-law brought to us from Washington last week.

Third, to liven up our breakfast options a little…I’ve been getting really burned out on cold cereal and oatmeal, no matter how much my little ones love it.

Continue reading

Bedtime Conversations on the Meaning of Life

Bedtime conversations with my four-year-old have become a cherished way to connect with my son and build sweet, simple memories together.Bedtime conversations with my four-year-old have become a cherished way to connect with my son and build sweet simple memories together.Most nights, about 15 minutes after putting Little Man to bed, he knocks on his bedroom door asking me to come snuggle him. (Don’t tell him he could just turn the door knob and come out himself.)

“Just 30 seconds” he pleads with those big chocolate brown eyes.

Even though I’m tired, and I really want some time to myself after the kids go to bed, I say, “Okay, Buddy,” and we climb into his bed together. Continue reading

10 Laugh-out-loud Funny Children’s Books

If laughter is the best medicine, then these 10 books will cure whatever ails you. I’m always looking for good book recommendations, so today I’m sharing my own recommendations of the best funny children’s books to read with your preschooler. Happy reading!

If laughter is the best medicine, then these 10 books will cure whatever ails you. Here are some of my very favorite children's books to read with kids. Both you and the kids will be giggling in no time!

Note: This post includes affiliate links. See my disclosure to learn more.

I love books. When I taught middle school, I spent most of the money I received each year for classroom supplies on books for my classroom library. I used this library to help my students find books they liked, and I would allow them to check them out from me to take home and read.

I would tell my students, “There are more than 16 million books in the Library of Congress. You can’t hate ALL of them. If you think you don’t like to read, you’ve just been reading the wrong books.” Continue reading

Fondant 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Mixing, Rolling & Decorating with Fondant (Part 2)

Have you ever wished you could make a really professional-looking cake? This two-part series will teach you everything you need to know about how to make fondant for a fancy birthday cake. Here’s part two: how to make/roll the fondant and finish your cake. Give it a try! 

Have you ever wished you could make a really professional-looking cake? This two-part series will teach you everything you need to know about how to make a fancy fondant cake. Here's part two: how to make/roll the fondant and finish your cake. Give it a try! Note: This post includes affiliate links. See my disclosure to learn more.

Alright, everyone. I’m back with the next installment of my “Fondant 101” series. In part one, I described everything you need to know about preparing your cake prior to actually making and using the fondant. If you haven’t read that post, you’ll find it here:

Fondant 101 – Part One: Preparing Your Cake

Today, I’m going to get into the real fondant work. The SCARY part. But, once you’ve tried it, you’ll realize as I did that it’s really not that scary after all.

As my mom told me, “Fondant is like play dough for grown ups.” Continue reading

Fondant 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Making a “Stellar” Cake (Part 1)

Have you ever wished you could make a really professional-looking cake? This two-part series will teach you everything you need to know about how to make fondant for a fancy birthday cake, starting with part one: how to prepare your cake. Give it a try! 

Have you ever wished you could make a really professional-looking cake? This two-part series will teach you everything you need to know about how to make a fancy fondant cake, starting with part one: how to prepare your cake. Give it a try!

Note: This post includes affiliate links. See my disclosure to learn more.

My baby turned two last week. I can’t believe he’s getting so big! He’s talking in sentences, running everywhere he goes, yelling “I do it!” 500 times a day, and has developed a pretty hilarious little sense of humor.

(Read more about why I actually think the “terrible” twos are a pretty awesome age.)

One of my favorite things about my kids’ birthdays is the excuse it gives me to make a fun cake. I know they would be totally content with simple cupcakes, and I fully accept that the cakes are more for me than for them, but I love the creative process of making a fun and edible representation of whatever it is that they happen to love at the time. For Little Man’s fourth birthday this year, I made a fun dinosaur world cake, and for Little Brother–who is constantly running around yelling 3-2-1 BLAST OFF!!!!!–we decided on a rocket ship.

Continue reading

Favorite Berry Smoothie

These easy smoothies are a great way to add some extra-healthy food into your diet (and your veggie-averse kiddos). It’s a breakfast and snack food you’ll all enjoy, and they’ll never know there’s a full cup of spinach in it!

These smoothies are super simple, but our whole family loves them. Start with a bunch of berries and a banana, brighten the flavor with some orange juice, add some creaminess with some yogurt, and finish it off with a big handful of spinach to up the healthy-factor.I’ve got to be honest with you all. I have a borderline obsession with strawberries.

I blame it on growing up in the middle of strawberry fields that reached as far as I could see. In fact, my mom still reminds me of how as a toddler, when I saw her buying flats of strawberries from roadside stands, I would SCREAM until she would give me one. Forget washing them…forget taking the stem off…I wanted that sweetness in my mouth before they lost the warmth of the sunshine that ripened them. Continue reading

What no one tells you about the terrible twos

There’s no doubt that the “terrible twos” are challenging, but just like anything else in life, you make the choice as to whether you’re going to focus on the good or the bad.What No One Tells You About the Terrible Twos 1

The terrible twos.

Are you cringing yet?

You’ve been hearing about them since before you even thought about having kids of your own, but you’ve dreaded them all these years. That second birthday is looming ever closer, and you’re just waiting for your toddler to turn into the crazy, tantrum-throwing monster that everyone says is inevitable. Continue reading