Currently……

The Never-Ending Winter :: maximizingdaysblog.comThis photo is titled ‘Never-Ending Winter’.
Is this not the most depressing picture?  It’s our backyard.
April 12th and not a sign of green ANYWHERE.
But don’t worry, because it will all be white again this weekend. (I’m not kidding….)

Full Disclosure: I am completely aware of my inability to stop complaining about the weather.  In the words of Squints Paladoris,  “I can’t take this any more!”

I Am Currently…..

Wearing

I started my Spring Capsule Wardrobe last week, so this should be filled with all of the fun, warm weather items that have been stored under my bed for the last six months.  But, alas, winter just won’t leave us alone.

So I will dream of actually wearing spring clothes sometime before July.  Until then…..

I bought these pants and sweatshirt during Athleta’s sale this past week, and am anxiously awaiting their arrival.  It’s still pants and long sleeves, but they’re more lightweight, so I’m hoping that will make it feel more spring-y.

Reading

Obama An Intimate Portrait.

I found this last week on a return cart at our public library and grabbed it as fast as my nerd hands could.  It is a collection of photos taken by Pete Souza, the official White House photographer for Barack Obama during his entire eight years in office.

It.is.fascinating.

With each photo is a short caption giving some context to what you see.  Beautiful photography aside (there’s a reason this guy was hired by The White House), flipping through the pages of this book gives an insight into what the job entails, the human side of the office, and behind the scenes parts of the job and cause us political science majors heart palpitations.

We don’t have a coffee table, but if we did, this book would be on it.

Eating

Dried apricots.

During Holy Week, our church does a Maundy Thursday ‘Experience’.  We eat a meal together inspired by the passover meal, sing hymns, read scripture and take communion.  It’s one of my favorite events of the year.

One of the items served for supper was an assortment of dried fruit, including dried apricots.  One of my children didn’t eat hers, so I helped her out.  Oh.my.goodness.  Where have these been my whole life?

That was two weeks ago today.  I’ve since purchased four bags of dried apricots.  I cannot get enough of them.

Watching

If you’ve been around here for any length of time, you know that I am an Aaron Sorkin nerd.  Before I knew what a screenwriter did, let alone any of their names, A Few Good Men & The American President were my two favorite movies (they were both written by Aaron Sorkin).  I started watching The West Wing when the pilot aired the fall of my senior year in high school, and faithfully watched every single episode of it’s seven year run.

Molly’s Game was Sorkin’s directorial debut, and my husband and I saw it in the theater.  It came out on Tuesday, and I created a Redbox account to rent it that day and watch it for a second time.

I’ve heard mixed reviews about the movie, but I, obviously, thought it was fantastic.  It’s a LOT of words, and they come pretty quickly.  But it’s a riveting story of a woman who tried to do what’s right while breaking the law.  Rent it.

And then google ‘Aaron Sorkin’ and watch anything else he’s ever written.

Loving

As I mentioned earlier, I did some online shopping this week at Athleta.  My husband bought me a swimsuit from there that I’ve been drooling over for the last six months, and since that purchase, I’m addicted.

I want everything they sell.  It’s a problem.

This conversation actually occurred in our kitchen this morning:
Me: The next time we go to the Cities (Minneapolis), I need to go into Athleta and ignore the price tags and just try on everything.
Husband: Whyyyyyyy?
Me: So I can learn what styles fit well so that when they go on sale online, I know what to buy without having to worry about it not fitting.
Husband: This sounds like a plan that can’t go wrong.

Thinking

That I’m going to buy this Simplified planner.  I’ve seen it around the blogosphere world and heard people talk about it, but I have my trusty Daily To Do List printable, so didn’t think much about it.

But now, I’m starting to change my tune.  They are currently sold out of planners, but are releasing new versions on May 2nd, and I’m leaning toward making the switch.  I will keep you posted.

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Spring Capsule Wardrobe

Spring Capsule Wardrobe for the Stay At Home Mom :: maximizingdaysblog.com

This post is painful to write.

It is the #neverendingwinter here in Minnesota.  The highest temperature in the forecast for the next 10 days is 44 degrees.  And 4 of those days include a chance of snow.

I want to cry.

The calendar says spring.  The climate does not.

So you can see why staring at a closet full of clothes that aren’t weather-sufficient isn’t a good time.  And why trying to explain to you why I chose what I chose makes me want to throw my arms up in the air in frustration.

My Spring Capsule Wardrobe will be the fourth time I’ve done this.  The end of this season will mark one year as a Capsule Wardrobe-r, and I’ve learned a few things along the way.

Spring Capsule Wardrobe for the Stay At Home Mom :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Capsule Wardrobe Lessons Learned:

1 – Don’t Get Caught Up in the Details

Most things you read say that a capsule wardrobe should have 30-40 items, including shoes and accessories.  My capsule wardrobes have consistently hovered around the 50 item mark, not including accessories.

I knew that if I tried to do much less than that, I would get frustrated at what I wish I had included.  I set myself up for success by changing the “rules”.  I suggest you do the same where you deem necessary.

2 – Think Big Picture

What’s appealing to you about a Capsule Wardrobe?  Why do you want to create one?  The answers to those questions are what you keeping reminding yourself of and keep coming back to you as you makes choices and assess it’s effectiveness.

I live fairly minimally, but I knew that my wardrobe was area where I could reign it in a little bit.  A Capsule Wardrobe seemed to be the tool that would help me do just that.

My ‘Big Picture’ was shifting my wardrobe mentality to only buying what I absolutely love and need – and doing so sparingly.

Intentionally choosing a fixed amount of clothing at the beginning of a season is my way of not only telling myself that “this is all that I need”, but also proving it.  I now walk into stores and think “I really don’t even need anything”, which is a much better attitude than “I wonder if there’s anything here that I might like.”

3 – Dress Weather Appropriate – Regardless of Capsule Inclusions

This is a big one here in the frozen tundra.  I decided to start my Spring Capsule on April 1st, which makes total sense when you look at a calendar.  It snowed on April 2nd (and 3rd and 5th…..), so I dug out my Uggs.  I hadn’t included them in my Spring Capsule Wardrobe because there is nothing spring-y about a fur-lined boot.  But, on those snowy, April days, that was the only appropriate footwear.

I wore Winter Capsule Wardrobe shoes on a Spring Capsule Wardrobe day.  Send the Capsule Wardrobe police.

This is why my #1 and #2 lessons are important.

Keep non-seasonal items in out of the way storage - Spring Capsule Wardrobe for the Stay At Home Mom :: maximizingdaysblog.com

4 – You Get a Shopping High Without Buying Anything

One bright spot in choosing my Spring Capsule Wardrobe was pulling out items that had been packed away since September.  I had a couple of shirts and pants that I could have included in my Fall Capsule Wardrobe, but didn’t, so they’ve been sitting in a  box under my bed for seven months.

Hanging the tops on hangers and putting the pants in my drawers gave me the excitement that I have when I buy something new.

This is where the Capsule Wardrobe has been a game-changer for me.  In the past, those tops and pants would have stayed in my closet and dresser drawers year-round where I would see them every day as I tried to choose what to wear.  But because they weren’t ideal wardrobe choices for the weather or season, I would have hardly worn them over the last seven months.  Then, I would feel guilty for not wearing what I own.  Whenever it came time to purge, and I went through items, I would see those and think “I hardly wear these” and get rid of them.

It seems counterintuitive, but I get more use out of items by only wearing them for short periods of time.  And I’m more excited to wear them.

5 – Temperate Seasons Are Hard

My Winter Capsule Wardrobe has been my favorite.

As miserable as Minnesota winters are, choosing clothes for them is easy.  Whatever is warm and comfortable.  That’s what is necessary to survive.

Choosing clothes for Minnesota “spring” is not as cut and dry.  I still need some warm clothes because we’re not out of the woods yet (the windchill was 16 degrees BELOW ZERO on Saturday), but by May (Lord-willing), I can wear shoes that expose my ankles.

If you look on Pinterest, you’ll see that it’s not uncommon to combine seasons, such as Winter-Spring Capsule Wardrobes.  I can see why people do that and how it could be helpful.  Especially in more temperate climates.  But it’s not unreasonable to say that there is a 90 degree difference between January and May here, so choosing clothes for that seems overwhelming to me.

Moral of the story: Do what you have to do to make it work for you.

But, it is April.  It is, technically, spring.  So I put on my big girl pants and created my Spring Capsule Wardrobe.  And now I’m counting down the days until I get to pack away most of these clothes and create my Summer Capsule Wardrobe.

Until then…..

Spring Capsule Wardrobe for the Stay At Home Mom :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Spring Capsule Wardrobe for the Stay At Home Mom :: maximizingdaysblog.com

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Quick & Lean Protein in the Morning

Quick & Lean Protein in the Morning - Veggie Egg Casserole :: maximizingdaysblog.com

I need protein in the morning.  As much as I would love to eat four donuts every morning for breakfast (I’m not exaggerating), my body needs more.  If I don’t eat protein for breakfast – and a lot of it – I am hungry no less than 1/2 hour after I finish eating.

My Body Pump instructor will often announce as we’re doing our cool down stretches to make sure that we eat lean protein in the next 30 minutes to help with muscle recovery.  Which is great, in theory.  But who has time to whip up scrambled eggs in the very tiny window of time I have between getting home from the gym and when my kids wake up?

My husband is rarely home from work for supper, so breakfast is our family meal time.  I used to be good about making scrambled eggs with veggies in the morning, but would end up making them while my husband and kids ate and then finally sitting down to eat as the three of them were finishing up.  Hardly the family sit down meal we were going for.

In Minnesota, there’s something called ‘Egg Bake’.  In most other parts of the world, it’s called Egg Casserole and I had made one a few weeks back for a function and had some leftovers.  The next morning, I heated up the leftovers and it was the fastest protein and veggie loaded breakfast!  I realized that I could make an egg casserole on the weekend and have breakfast ready for the entire week.

So, that’s what I do.

I’ve stumbled upon two tricks to having a quick and lean protein packed breakfast and I’m pumped to share them with you.

Let me first say that I am NOT a food blogger, and have no intention to become one.  But these “recipes” fall under the category of “Here’s something that has made my life easier (and healthier), so you should try them too”.

Quick & Lean Protein in the Morning Trick #1 – Turkey Bacon

Each week, I buy two packages of turkey bacon and cook them according to package instructions on sheet pans in the oven until they’re about 75% done.  The bacon I buys says to cook for 12 minutes, so I cook it for 8 minutes and then let it cool on the pan.  Once it’s cooled, I put it in a leftover container in the fridge.

In the morning, when I get back from the gym, I put 4 pieces of bacon on a napkin and microwave it for 45 seconds.  This finishes cooking the turkey bacon.  I haven’t even been home for 2 minutes, and I’m already getting one serving of lean protein.

Quick & Lean Protein in the Morning Trick #2 – Egg Casserole

This recipe is SUPER flexible.  The measurements are just to give you an idea.  Adjust to your preferences.

The “recipe” calls for sweet potato fries because I cannot get enough sweet potatoes.  You can use any kind of frozen potato that you prefer.  If you choose one that doesn’t already have some seasoning (i.e. hash browns), I would suggest adding more seasoning for flavor.  Or, if you like bland food, then just go with the hash browns.  But, if you like bland food, I’m not sure what about this recipe is appealing to you…. 🙂

I pretty much end up pulling out whatever is in my fridge that sounds good.  We had some bacon that I had overcooked and was already crumbled from taking it off the pan, so I decided to throw that in there.  My sweet peppers & 1/2 an onion were on their last legs, so I cut up what I had left of those.

Veggie Egg Casserole

Quick & Lean Protein in the Morning - Veggie Egg Casserole :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Add sweet potato fries, chopped veggies, bacon & 4 oz. shredded cheese to a large mixing bowl.

Quick & Lean Protein in the Morning - Veggie Egg Casserole :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Toss to combine

Quick & Lean Protein in the Morning - Veggie Egg Casserole :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Spray 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray

Pour potato mixture into baking dish

Quick & Lean Protein in the Morning - Veggie Egg Casserole :: maximizingdaysblog.com

In a large bowl (or, if you’re lazy like me, an electric mixer bowl), whisk the eggs.

Quick & Lean Protein in the Morning - Veggie Egg Casserole :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Add milk, garlic powder, basil, salt & pepper

Quick & Lean Protein in the Morning - Veggie Egg Casserole :: maximizingdaysblog.com

The seasonings will sit at the top of the egg mixture.  That’s okay.

Quick & Lean Protein in the Morning - Veggie Egg Casserole :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Pour the egg mixture over the potato and veggie mixture

Quick & Lean Protein in the Morning - Veggie Egg Casserole :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Top with remaining shredded cheese

Quick & Lean Protein in the Morning - Veggie Egg Casserole :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Bake for one hour.  The center should be set and the edges should be golden brown

Quick & Lean Protein in the Morning - Veggie Egg Casserole :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Veggie Egg Casserole Recipe

  • 1/2 bag frozen sweet potato fries
  • 4 cups chopped veggies (onion, mushroom, sweet peppers, spinach, etc.)
  • 6 strips bacon, cooked & chopped (opt)
  • 8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
  • 15-18 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp dried basil
  • Cooking spray
  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Add sweet potato fries, chopped veggies, bacon & 4 oz. shredded cheese to a large mixing bowl.  Toss to combine.
  3. Spray 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray
  4. Pour potato mixture into baking dish
  5. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs.  Then add milk, garlic powder, basil, salt & pepper
  6. Pour the egg mixture over the potato and veggie mixture
  7. Top with remaining shredded cheese
  8. Bake for one hour.  The center should be set and the edges should be golden brown

I do steps 1-7 on the weekend and then put a lid on the baking dish and stick it in the fridge.  I turn the oven on when I leave for the gym on Monday morning, and my husband sticks it in the oven (without the lid on!) when he gets up.  By the time the kids walk upstairs, I’m pulling the casserole out of the oven and our house smells divine.

The leftovers go in the fridge and breakfast is ready for the rest of the week.  While getting the kids’ breakfast ready, I pull out a piece or two of egg casserole and microwave it for 2 minutes.  Then we all have a family breakfast together and it’s like the Cleavers.  Not quite.  But, we do all eat a healthy breakfast together, and that is the goal.

If you will not eat an entire 9×13 pan of egg casserole in a week (I eat a lot of food…), cut the recipe in half and use an 8×8 baking dish.

P.S. Check out how to organize leftover containers here and how to make room in your fridge to store a 9×13 pan here.  

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Currently……

Currently :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Wearing

These boots.  If you follow my winter capsule wardrobe on Instagram, you’ve seen these on my feet every.single.day.  They’re super cliche, but there’s a reason Hunter boots are an institution.

It is finally starting to warm up a little bit in the tundra, and I don’t want to think about where I’m stepping and whether or not I’m ruining my shoes or going to get wet socks, so my Hunters are my go-to footwear right now.

Reading

Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker.  I’m actually re-reading it.  I received it as a gift from my Aunt for my birthday, and it’s such a fun, easy read, that I got through it in a couple days.

But, afterward, I realized that there were parts that were meaty that I wanted to dig my teeth into a little more, so I’m re-reading it.  This time, with a pen and highlighter in hand.  I’m enjoying the light-hearted humor and recipes, but I’m also taking the time to really think about deep issues that matter to me about which she writes.

Eating

This Whole Foods “copycat” Tropical Green Smoothie from Rabbit Food for my Bunny Teeth.  I wanted a green smoothie that tasted like one I would order from Panera or Starbucks, and this seemed like it might be that.  And it is!  Add to that the benefit of it being “normal” ingredients that I already had.

Watching

I’m re-watching Hawaii Five-O on Netflix.  I’ve watched the series twice, but it’s been a while.  It’s a little cheesy, and it’s a stereotypical cop show, but for me it’s so much more.  The show takes place and is filmed in Hawaii, which was my Grandpa’s favorite place on earth.  He went there frequently and I grew up hearing stories about this magical place.  I’ve only been there once, but I feel like I have a connection to that place, and watching Hawaii Five-O is one of my sentimental guilty pleasures.

Loving

Up First.  I’m a huge NPR News & Podcast nerd.  This has been established.  Up First is a podcast that is a daily news round-up.  It is 3-4 of the top stories of the day and it lasts about 12-15 minutes.

I subscribe to the podcast, so it’s on my phone when I leave the house at 5:15 to go to the gym.  I listen to the first half on the drive there and second half on the drive back.  Even if I don’t get a chance to read another news article for the rest of the day, I feel informed and in touch with the goings on in the world.

Thinking

That I’ve gained ten pounds since the beginning of the year and that I really need to do something about it, but I don’t want to make the changes that it requires.  I love ice cream and bread and donuts and cookies too much.  And with all of the aforementioned vices, there is no such thing as moderation for me.  I want the benefits of healthy living and none of the work or sacrifices.  I’m sure that you can’t identify with this life conundrum.

TGIF.

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Best Way to Organize Food Containers

Trick to Organizing Leftover Containers :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Tupperware.  Gladware.  Leftover containers.  Whatever you call them, they can easily be the bane of kitchen organization.

Leftover containers can be tricky to organize because it’s a lethal combination of mismatched shapes & sizes, they’re made to stack, but easily topple over and there are separate lids.  Oi vey the lids.

The #1 tip that I give when asked about organizing food containers is to use uniform food storage.

Trick to Organizing Leftover Containers :: maximizingdaysblog.com

By uniform, I mean sticking to one specific type or style of container.

Uniformity allows you to utilize space better – where containers are stored and when they are in your fridge.  Stacking is doable because containers are made to fit inside of or on top of one another.  And those pesky lids are easier to corral because they nest inside one another.

I’m not saying that the only way for you to organize this area of your home is for you to throw out your entire cupboard of containers and start fresh (although, for some, that may be the best solution).  When the time comes to buy new leftover containers (in my experience, this should be done more than it is), think ahead and employ this principle from now on.

Research now and decide what type or set would work best for you.  Then, when the times comes to replace what you have, you’ve already done the legwork and all you have to do now is purchase what you’ve already decided you need.

So, how do you know what type or set works best for you?

Leftover Container FAQ

GLASS VS. PLASTIC
This is a preference thing.  Each has their positives and negatives.  Glass doesn’t include BPA (there are plastic BPA-free options as well), doesn’t stain and lasts longer.  Plastic is significantly cheaper, has more size options and needs to be replaced more often (which can be nice if you’re the kind of person who likes to change things up).

There’s no right answer for this one – which is freeing because you can’t go wrong.  We use glass for leftovers (anything that will go in the microwave) and plastic for cut up fruits and veggies.

HOW MANY DO I NEED?
Not as many as you think you do.  Most people have way more containers than they need or could ever use at once.

The ‘how many’ question is determined by your fridge space and your storage space.  Don’t have or buy more than you can store at any one time.  Add a few more for freezer and pantry storage and that’s it.

Trick to Organizing Leftover Containers :: maximizingdaysblog.com

HOW DO ORGANIZE THOSE PESKY LIDS?
The best option is to stack them together and to contain them.  There are many ways to do this, and it depends on the shapes and sizes of your lids.

Lid storage is one of the biggest reasons that I suggest uniform storage for leftover containers, because that means that you only have one or two sizes of lids for 5-7 different sizes of containers.

Choose leftover container sets that have uniform lids that fit multiple container sizes :: maximzingdaysblog.com

WHAT SHAPE IS BEST?
First, let me say this;  Which shape you choose is not as important as choosing ONE shape and sticking to it.  A combination of square, circle and hexagon containers (I’ve never seen a hexagon container, but I guarantee you that someone, somewhere has one) makes for tricky storage – both when the containers are being used and need to be stacked in the fridge or when they’re not being used and need to be stored together.

Personally, circles seem like a waste of space to me, but some people really like them.  Again, the actual shape that you choose is a personal preference thing.  Choose whatever excites you most.

HOW DO I CHOOSE A SET?
Okay, so you’re convinced to leave your old ways of buying mismatched sets on a whim.  Start with the basics discussed above – glass or plastic, shape & quantity.  Use those parameters as you’re searching through sets.

Go through your current leftover containers and pull out the containers you use most often.  Write down their size and what you use them for.  Make sure that as you’re looking through sets, you find a set that fills those purposes.

Look for auxiliary pieces as well.  For instance, we  have this set, but knew that we needed more 2.5 qt containers, so before buying it, we looked to see if we could buy more of that size individually.

Trick to Organizing Leftover Containers :: maximizingdaysblog.com

What do you find to be the hardest part of organizing your leftover containers?

Trick to Organizing Leftover Containers :: maximizingdaysblog.com

P.S.  See how I use the containers in my fridge and read about why uniform storage isn’t just for your leftover containers

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