Simplified Planner Giveaway!

FREE Simplified Planner Giveaway - Enter here :: maximizingdaysblog.com

This is my first year with my Simplified Planner and to say that I LOVE it would be an understatement.

I’m, like, borderline-obsessed.

And because I love the Simplified Planner so much, I want to share the love by giving YOU the opportunity to win one.

FREE Simplified Planner Giveaway - Enter here :: maximizingdaysblog.com

One lucky winner will receive:

To enter to win this prize bundle, go to my Instagram account.

The winner will be tagged in my Instagram account on Friday, December 14th.

FREE Simplified Planner Giveaway - Enter here :: maximizingdaysblog.com

As the creator of this planner, Emily Ley, would say  – ‘A planner won’t fix your life.  But this can be one of the tools that helps you to reign in the craziness so that you can focus on the really good stuff in this life.’

Start the New Year off right with a FREE Simplified Planner Bundle.  Enter here.

FREE Simplified Planner Giveaway - Enter here :: maximizingdaysblog.com

P.S. Simplified Planner not your thing? Try this free printable to keep track of all.the.things.

Simple DIY Advent Calendar

Simple DIY Advent Calendar :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Yes.  You read that correctly.  I am showing YOU how to do a DIY project.

If you look outside, I think you’ll also see pigs flying.

What’s the DIY mantra?  ‘Why buy something when you can make it yourself?’  I live by the opposite mantra.  ‘Why take the time and effort to make something when you can buy it?’ And if I can’t afford to buy it, I guarantee that I can’t afford to make it because I will mess up the first three attempts and end up buying enough supplies that I spend more than I would have if I would have just purchased it in the first place.

Full disclosure, I came to this DIY project begrudgingly. I wanted an Advent calendar, but couldn’t find one that really focused on waiting.

Not on waiting impatiently for presents, but rather, on preparing our hearts for the coming of a Savior.

I had just about given up last year when I found this little countdown banner (similar) in the Christmas section at Target for $5.  The backside of each number card is blank and I decided to use that as the teaching part of this little exercise.

I googled “Christmas Hymns” and found a list of 20 of them.  While waiting for Thanksgiving dinner, sitting amongst my kids’ crayons, I grabbed the cards and wrote each of the hymn titles on a card and picked my five favorites to write twice.  My daughter “helped” by adding her scribbles.

Simple DIY Advent Calendar :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Breakfast is our family meal, so we start breakfast each morning with this banner.  One of our kids grabs the card with the number of how many days it is until Christmas.  We search on the iPad for that hymn on You Tube.

While eating breakfast, we listen to a song about the birth of Jesus.  Sometimes we sing along, sometimes I pause and take note of the powerful lyrics.  Rarely everyone is listening all at once.

Nothing about this is perfect.  Not the banner, the singing (or lack thereof) or the artwork.

But it achieves it’s purpose.  As we count down the days until we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we fill our home with the promises that God gives us in His Son.  Each day starts with a reflection on what it means that God left heaven to come (as my one of my favorite hymns says) “To raise the sons of earth, Born to given them second birth.”

Simple DIY Advent Calendar :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Simple DIY Advent Calendar How To

  1. Buy a countdown tool.  Or, if you’re an over-achiever, make one.  For slackers like me, a few options include these cute mittens, a wall hanging with pockets, galvanized little buckets or these adorable stockings.
  2. Write a hymn title on each countdown piece.  Of if it’s a material that can’t be written on (buckets or felt stockings), write the titles on little slips of paper and stick them inside.

That’s it.  Easiest DIY EVER.  Which is the only reason that I did it.

Don’t let perfection be the goal.  Or the standard.

Let this be a tool that brings your family closer together as you wait.  Use it to teach that waiting is good.

And don’t worry about the imperfect handwriting in crayon.  In a few years, your grown children will laugh with you about it.  At least that’s what I’m hoping.

Simple DIY Advent Calendar :: maximizingdaysblog.com

P.S.  Technically, you could say that I have another Christmas craft tradition as well, but I like to call it organizing.  And, since one of the joys of Christmas is giving presents, you should start with an organized gift wrap station.

Currently….

Currently :: maximizingdaysblog.com

I Am Currently…..

Wearing

My plaid infinity scarf (similar).

Scarves are a necessity here in the tundra.  But, they’re also a way to kick up an otherwise  boring outfit.

Yesterday, I wore jeans and a long-sleeve tee.  BORING.  But by simply adding the scarf, it looked a little more put together.  And I was cozy.

Infinity scarves are my favorite.  I’m sure that you’re not surprised to hear that I’ve always struggled with how to correctly tie a scarf, so when the work is done for me, I’m all in.

Reading

Suffering by Paul David Tripp.

I saw this on a friend’s kitchen counter and mentioned that I’d wanted to read it.  The next time I saw her, she handed it to me.

I can’t put it down.  And I’m not a fast reader.  Or a finisher of books, for that matter.  But this is different.

Paul David Tripp is one of my favorite authors (I highly recommend his devotional New Morning Mercies) and in Suffering, he tells the story of his personal suffering with physical illness and the journey he is on in dealing with that ongoing pain.  He writes about it in an authentic way that is equally heart-breaking and refreshing.

At the risk of breaking some copyright laws, let me just share with you this paragraph:

“Scripture never looks down on the sufferer, it never mocks his pain, it never turns a deaf ear to his cries, and it never condemns him for his struggle.  It presents to the sufferer a God who understands, who cares, who invites us to come to him for help, and who promises one day to end all suffering of any kind once and forever.  Because of this, the Bible, while being dramatically honest about suffering, is at the same time gloriously hopeful.  And it’s not just that the Bible tells the story of suffering honestly and authentically; it also gives us concrete and real hope.” – Suffering, Paul David Tripp

Eating

Sausage and Kale Soup from the Magnolia Table cookbook.

I’m making my way through that cookbook, and as I was flipping pages, my daughter saw a picture of this soup and told me that I should make it.  So, I did.

She didn’t eat a single bite.

But it was delicious and I ate quite a few bites.

I also made the Tomato Soup from the same cookbook and it was not to my liking.  There was nothing wrong with the recipe, just a personal preference.  I feel the need to note this publicly because, so far, I’ve raved about every other recipe that I’ve tried in that cookbook!

Watching

The Blacklist.

YOU GUYS.  This show is SO GOOD.

I remember when this show premiered thinking that it looked good and that it would be something that I would enjoy.  I was obsessed with the show Alias back in the day and The Blacklist seemed to have the same kind of mystery and intrigue that I loved.

But I never actually tuned it to watch The Blacklist.  Until now.  It is the definition of binge-worthy.  I can’t get enough of it.

Loving

My new Pottery Barn Cozy Cable Knit Throw.

This is one of those things that I’ve wanted and had on my Christmas list for a decade.  And I got it last week thanks to a huge sale and a generous husband.

It is just as good as you think it’s going to be.  Soft cable knit on top and the coziest fleece-y stuff underneath.  I snuggle up with it on the couch in the evening and then take it with me to our bed.  It’s the best blanket I’ve ever had.

Thinking

That I want to find a really good Advent countdown to do with our family.  Got any suggestions?

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