Greeting Card Journals

Greeting Card Journals :: maximizingdaysblog.com

I grew up in a family that gives cards for every occasion.

The big (what most people would call normal) events warranted two cards – one funny and one sentimental.  The lesser holidays – you know, like Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day or Arbor Day – only warranted a single card.

Because of growing up like this, I do love giving and receiving greeting cards.

But, what do you do with greeting cards after you’ve read them?

I don’t know the answer to that question.

Greeting Card Journals :: maximizingdaysblog.com

In our immediate family, we no longer give greeting cards, and instead, have, what we call, Greeting Card Journals.

This is just one more idea that was not originally mine and that I got from friends (others being this, this and this).

Each family member has their own journal, and on an occasion that warrants a greeting card, family members write in that person’s journal.  So far, we’ve mostly just written in them for birthdays and anniversaries, but as our kids get older, I can see also writing in it on other “milestone” events.

Greeting Card Journals :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Why Greeting Card Journals?

  1. They Get Re-Read – It is not uncommon for my daughter to ask to have her “birthday book” read to her.  She loves to hear the words written to her by her mom and dad from when she turned 2 and 3 and 4.  Instead of having cards that sit in a box stuffed somewhere, these greeting card journals are easily accessible.  I have been known to grab mine off the shelf and read sweet, encouraging words to give me a pick-me-up on a tough day.
  2. Less Clutter – These journals stay on a family bookshelf.  We don’t have to find a place to keep and pack away stacks of various sized cards.  And they look pretty on the bookshelf.
  3. Cheaper – There is nothing special about these journals.  I got them at Target a few years ago for $8 each.  Most greeting cards are $3-$4.  You can do the math to see how quickly a journal becomes the more cost-effective solution.
  4. Keepsake – If our house was burning (and everyone was out safe) and I had one minute to grab something before we got out, I’d grab these greeting card journals.  In those pages are some of the sweetest memories and words that any of us have.  These journals are a record, not only of some of our best days, but also of the people with whom we shared those days.  And written reminders of how much we love one another.  That is gold.

I still buy and send greeting cars to other family members.  And I still oboe getting cards in the mail from friends and family.  But, for our immediate family, who would otherwise exchange hundreds of cards over the coming decades, greeting card journals are much better way to go.

Greeting Card Journals :: maximizingdaysblog.com

P.S. For those of you who still want to send greeting cards, here’s how I make sure that I don’t miss one.

Bottom Drawer Freezer Organization

Bottom Drawer Freezer Organization :: maximizingdaysblog.com

French door refrigerators are the greatest invention since the wheel.  This may be a overstating things slightly.  But only slightly.

I love having my entire refrigerator at the top.  Like most of us who grew up in the 80’s, until the last decade, I’ve only known a freezer on the top 1/3 and the fridge on the bottom 2/3 of the unit.  A whole new world was opened up to me when some brilliant engineer decided to switch up those two locations.

I don’t love having a big drawer on the bottom.

It becomes a deep abyss of freezer-burned veggies, bread, fruit and waffles that I can never find when I need them.

The top half justifies the button, but a big drawer isn’t ideal.

So, let’s try to make the best out of a non-ideal situation.

Because I will get asked, I will start by saying that we have the Kenmore Elite 29.8 cubic foot French Door Refrigerator.  A unique feature is it’s two slide out trays, in addition to the lower drawer.  If your bottom drawer freezer isn’t like that, don’t let it be a deterrent.  Us the same tactics and tricks for your one drawer that I use for my two.

Rarely do I think that purchasing containment is the answer to most organizing problems, but this is the exception.

The size and position of bottom drawer freezers require a little more to achieve maximum usage.  Or, at the very least, to not be the bane of my existence.

Since I’ve now suggested finding some containment, I think you can guess what’s coming next…. If you’re going to purchase product, (say it with me…), MEASURE TWICE, PURCHASE ONCE.

Measure the length, width & depth of the trays and the deep drawer.  Search for products using these parameters.  There’s nothing exciting about doing math and looking for fine print in product descriptions, but it’s less exciting to think you found a solution and shell out cash, only to find it doesn’t do what you hoped it would.  (For my own failure with this, check out this embarrassing video.)

The containment that I used in my top freezer tray is mis-match of what I had lying around.

Bottom Drawer Freezer Organization :: maximizingdaysblog.com

The multi-purpose bins that I use in the deep part of the drawer are second only to my beloved shoebox bins on my list of all-time favorite organizing products.  They are at the top of that list for the same reasons: A multitude of uses & they’re cheap!

Thankfully, these multi-purpose bins fit perfectly in the drawer of our freezer, so it was just a matter of deciding on a size configuration.

My brain thinks in categories, so the easiest way for me to divide up the mess of bags in the drawer was to divide it into food groups.

Our freezer drawer categories are Fruits, Veggies, Bread, Meat & Potatoes.

Yours may be breakfast, lunch & supper.  Or they can be divided up by color.  Whatever works for you works here.

Bottom Drawer Freezer Organization :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Measuring and finding the containment will be the hardest part of this organization project.  Once you have the containment, taking your bottom drawer freezer from pile of Who-Knows-What to Place Where Food Can Be Easily Accessed should take you less than 20 minutes.  That’s the commercial breaks during a one-hour TV show.

What do you find to be the hardest part bottom drawer freezer organization?

Bottom Drawer Freezer Organization :: maximizingdaysblog.com

P.S. Feeling ambitious?  Use these tips to organize your fridge.  Sick of wasting frozen food?  This is how we avoid that trap.

Muffin Tin Mondays

Muffin Tin Mondays :: maximizingdaysblog.com - Fill a muffin tins with Veggies, Fruits, Meat, Cheese, Crackers & Condiments. No plates or silverware needed. Easy lunch that your kids will love.

Full Disclosure:  This is not my idea.

I saw it on Twin Cities Moms Blog Instagram this summer and decided to give it a try.  My kids thought I was the best mom ever (for approximately 3 minutes).

Simultaneously, I was reading Emily Ley’s A Simplified Life, and was specifically struck by the chapter on Simplified Technology.  Ley pointed out the ways that we can let social media drain us and ways to combat it.

But THIS is what social media is good for.  Ideas that we would never come up with on our own.

Snacky foods in a muffin pan is not rocket science.  But without seeing how someone else did it, we wouldn’t have Muffin Tin Mondays in our house.

And Muffin Tin Mondays are a legit thing now.  My kids look forward to it and, literally, count down the days until Monday for just this reason.  The irony is that we eat almost the exact same thing for supper on Sunday nights (lovingly called ‘Snacky Supper’ in our home), but they don’t care.  Or even realize it.

Muffin Tin Mondays aren’t just great because there are no plates or silverware, or because it’s a great way to clean out whatever scraps of food you have lying around.  They’re great because it’s a way to make the mundane things special.

Every other day of the week, we eat lunch (on plates with silverware) at our Dining Room table.  But not on Mondays.  After arriving home from pre-school pick up, the muffin tin is filled in less than 3 minutes and put on the kitchen island counter.   The kids belly up to the counter and think they are living their best life.

It’s special because we call it special.  And, sometimes, that’s all it takes.

Muffin Tin Mondays :: maximizingdaysblog.com - Fill a muffin tins with Veggies, Fruits, Meat, Cheese, Crackers & Condiments. No plates or silverware needed. Easy lunch that your kids will love.

So, what’s the equation for this rocket science meal?  For your own turn as Mom of the Year, follow this formula:

Muffin Tin Mondays

  • 2 Proteins (Sandwich meat, Summer Sausage, Nuts, Hard-Boiled Eggs, etc.)
  • 2 Veggies (Carrots, Cucumbers, Celery, Pea Pods, Broccoli, Grape Tomatoes, Avocado chunks, Pepper slices, etc.)
  • 2 Fruits (Blueberries, Grapes, Strawberries, Apple slices, Orange slices, Prunes, Cherries, Blackberries, Raspberries, Kiwi, Watermelon, Mango, etc.)
  • 3 C’s (Cheese, Crackers & Condiments)
  • *A leftover muffin well for shells, stems & pits gets you extra points

Instead of crackers, you could do mini muffins, any variety of pretzel, veggie straws….. the possibilities are endless.

Obviously, these suggestions are not an exhaustive list.  You can really do this up.  But let me say that, for us, what makes this successful is it’s simplicity.

Type ‘Muffin Tin Monday’ into the Pinterest search bar, and you’ll see exactly what we avoid.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that kind of effort and creativity.  But to try to do that every Monday would defeat the purpose for us.

So, I start with the leftover shelf in our fridge and then move down to the fruit & veggies shelf and fill the rest of the muffin wells with whatever we have in the pantry.

Bonus: What they don’t eat becomes my lunch.  It’s perfect because they almost never eat all the veggies & nuts and almost always eat all of the crackers.

Muffin Tin Mondays :: maximizingdaysblog.com - Fill a muffin tins with Veggies, Fruits, Meat, Cheese, Crackers & Condiments. No plates or silverware needed. Easy lunch that your kids will love.

What lunch hack have you found that works well in your home?

Check out other kid lunch ideas here and where those leftover and veggie spots are in my fridge here.

Finding Time to Try New Recipes

3 Ways to Find Time to Try New Recipes :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Tell me if this is you: Gets excited to find new recipes on Pinterest or in cookbooks, but feel like you make the same thing every week.

*Insert hand raising emoji here*

Me too.

I’m one of those people who actually enjoys cooking.  I really do.  But we are in a stage of life right now – I’m stay-at-home mom to a 3 & 5 year-old – where cooking is done out of necessity and not enjoyment.

But that desire to find new favorites and make them hasn’t gone away, so I’ve had to find ways to try those new recipes.

3 Ways to Find Time to Try New Recipes

Be Realistic

The name of my cooking game right now is speed.  How fast can I go from starting to prepare supper to on the table?

The faster, the better.

And I don’t know if it’s just me, but trying something new takes me for-ev-er.  Whatever the cook time is listed on the recipe, I double it.  I’m a slow cooker.

Give yourself permission to try something new when it’s fun for you and not when you’re feeling obligated or guilty.  Enjoying trying new recipes doesn’t mean recreating the wheel every day and utilizing a new cook book doesn’t mean finishing every recipe in it in a month.

3 Ways to Find Time to Try New Recipes :: maximizingdaysblog.com

For Mother’s Day, my husband got me the Magnolia Table cookbook.  I proceeded to read through it and flag the recipes that I want to try – of which there were about 20.

That will probably take me 2 years.

It may seem like  a long time, but if you do the math, that’s one new recipe a month, and I know that’s ambitious for me.  And it’s October, which means I’m five months behind already.

Simplify the Other Parts of the Meal

Go Big or Go Home doesn’t apply to this situation.

When you do have the time to try something new, put all of your effort into one new recipe at a time, and make the other parts of the meal as simple as possible.

For this meal, I decided to go with bagged salad and my favorite bread from my favorite bakery for the sides.

3 Ways to Find Time to Try New Recipes :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Be Strategic About When Your Cook the New Recipe

Make the new recipe on a day when you have some margin.  Don’t try to squeeze it in when you’re crunched for time and feeling the weight of getting food on the table ASAP.  Pick a weekend or a random day off.

I had one day last week where I was home taking care of my infant nephew, so I could start supper prep a little early.  And we didn’t have to be anywhere that evening.  So if making the meal took longer than the book said it would (which it always does), we wouldn’t be late for anything.

3 Ways to Find Time to Try New Recipes :: maximizingdaysblog.com

These little tricks allowed me to look forward to trying something new.  All day, I was looking forward to making something yummy (hopefully) and having an outlet for this tiny creative part of me.  And  the recipe turned out awesome and has now been added to our list of family meals.  That doesn’t always happen, but you don’t know until you try, right?

What are you ways to find time to do what you enjoy?

3 Ways to Find Time to Try New Recipes :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Perspective

Perspective :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Earlier this week, my husband went into work before the kids woke up.  Which mean that I single-parented.  I’m not good at that. (Shout out to all of you who do this EVERY DAY).

I get so discouraged when I leave the house with stuff undone (i.e. not ready for the evening when we return).  I pulled out of our driveway feeling frustrated about what didn’t get done.  But then it occurred to me to think about what did.  So, I started making a mental list, which became an actual list.

From 5:00AM-8:15AM, I did the following:

  • Snuggled hubby (TMI???)
  • Brushed teeth
  • Made bed
  • Took vitamins
  • Drank glass of lemon water
  • COFFEE
  • Did devotions
  • Prayed
  • Checked Email
  • Created game plan to help a friend declutter
  • Showered
  • Did hair & makeup
  • Packed my lunch
  • Emptied dishwasher
  • Snuggled kiddos
  • Made breakfast
  • Cleaned up 2 spills (salt & raisins)
  • Comforted a child after she fell off of her chair
  • Comforted said child’s sibling because he got his Dad’s empathy and struggles big time to see others hurting
  • Got 2 children dressed – in seasonally appropriate attire
  • Brushed 2 children’s teeth
  • Monitored 2 children’s making of their beds
  • Remembered to pack children’s blankets for nap at day care

This list is not by way of bragging.

It is the tool that I use to give myself perspective.

I left the house focused on the dirty dishes that covered the counter, and underneath those dishes is a pile of crumbs.  Below those counters are floors filled with crumbs.  And next to those counters are pans with scrambled egg remnants that are going to be a bugger to scrub off.

It’s so easy (for me) to focus on what isn’t done.  But there are days when I need to give myself some grace and change my perspective.  I’m learning to have eyes to see what should be celebrated and not just what should be fixed.

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