28 November 2013
John and I are prepping and eating Thanksgiving dinner solo today, which we’re actually kind of excited about. We LOVE celebrating with family, but for various reasons (mostly because of John’s work schedule and my older sister’s inability to travel — baby niece or nephew is coming any day now!!), it didn’t happen this year. It’s been a really busy few weeks (months, actually), and so we are relishing in a day or two to relax, eat delicious food, address Christmas cards, listen to our favorite Christmas music, and begin getting our decorations sorted out. I wish the same for all of you, no matter where or with whom you’re celebrating!
P.S. I am thankful for you all — for your encouragement, your emails, and for coming to check in day after day. Much love!!
26 November 2013
I know meal planning is something that a lot of people my age struggle with (I get a lot of emails about it), so I thought I’d share the system we use. It is, like most things, contained in our Simplified Planner, and it’s pretty simple!
On Saturday mornings, John and I sit down and plan out our meals for the week (Sunday to Saturday). Since our default is to make dinner at home, we first look at the calendar and figure out whether there are any days we know we’ll be dining out (maybe dinner at a friend’s house, or a day where we’re running around and don’t have time to cook). We also check to see whether we’re expecting guests any night. Once those are marked on the planning doc, we start filling in meals for the other nights. We pull ideas from Pinterest (meal boards here + here), from our collection of cook books, and from our accumulated meal plans (we have them going back to when we moved to NC, more than four years ago!!). We do tend to have seasonal favorites that show up often — including, as you can see below, BLTs when tomatoes are summer delicious :)
As we put together a week of menus, we also take into account the weather. (Is it going to be hot or cold? Might make a difference in the kinds of meals we want to prepare.) One other really important consideration for us is the leftover situation. John and I both take leftovers to work for lunch every single day, so we need to have a balance of meals that create leftovers and are easy to pack and reheat… and meals that do not (so we don’t end up with too much food).
Once we have our meals planned, they go on the meal planning doc. (Feel free to download your own copy here!) Sometimes I’ll jot down a page number or website next to the meal so we can find it again easily. Then, we put together a shopping list. We generally shop at two places every week: Whole Foods and a Walmart Neighborhood Market (basically a Walmart with only groceries and a very small home and pharmacy section). If our schedule allows, we go to one store on Saturday, and one on Sunday, which makes it seem pretty manageable. I split our list by the stores: below, Walmart is on the left, and Whole Foods is on the right. We generally shop at Whole Foods for most vegetables and fruit, dairy, and WF brands/brands that aren’t available elsewhere. Don’t mind the shorthand :)
We generally don’t decide in advance which meal we’ll have on which day — we kind of play it by ear, taking into account the leftover situation and which ingredients spoil the fastest. Thankfully, John does the cooking in our house, so once the meal planning is done, my job is complete! (Until the dishes call my name…)
I know everyone’s situation is very different, so I would love to hear: Do you plan your meals out for the week? How many nights do you eat in vs. out? Does your significant other play a big role, or not? I hope this was helpful!!
25 November 2013
We had our first weekend at home with no visitors or big events in a while, and it was nice to have a chance to check a few things off the to do list and also have time for some mini adventures!
We got to take a hay ride tour of Maple View Farm while attending a two-year-old’s birthday party. The baby cows were so cute, though the teenagers are pictured above, and they were pretty cute, too! (For those not in the know, Maple View has the BEST ice cream in the area!) We planted tulip, daffodil, and hyacinth bulbs along the edge of our back deck. I have no idea which bulb is which, but there are some really beautiful varieties, and we’re crossing our fingers they’ll all pop up next spring! John finally got a chance to try Saltbox Seafood Joint in Durham. I even tried a bite of his shrimp roll, and admitted it was quite good — as you can probably see from the photo, they use many more herbs and seasonings than your average seafood shack. Finally, we completed our first Craigslist purchase on Friday night!! I’d been searching for a Jenny Lind bed on and off for the last year or so, and was delighted to see one pop up on Thursday night for a great price. It felt a little clandestine and weird to arrange the pick-up, but the whole experience was quite exhilarating! :)
What were up to this weekend, friends? Happy Thanksgiving week!!
22 November 2013
The first section in my planner is actually for Em for Marvelous. It’s pretty simple, as there’s really only one thing in it: my monthly blog planning sheets. Though they look like one of Emily Ley’s offerings (she has a fabulous free printable library!), I actually created them myself, because the one she offers didn’t mesh with my workflow.
My goal was to create a place to both brainstorm post ideas for each month as well as to schedule those ideas throughout the month. The top section has blank lines, and ideas get crossed off once their posts have been completed.
The bottom portion is a blank calendar, Monday through Friday. I generally schedule posts in pencil as my posting schedule changes often (just look at my plan below!).
I try to keep sheets for the next six months or so printed out so I can jot down season-specific ideas as they come to me. It’s funny — when I first started blogging, in college, more than five years ago (wow!), I tried to blog five days a week. I usually succeeded; my biggest problem was finding enough topics to blog about. Now, my problem is the opposite — I have more than enough things I want to write about, but not nearly as much time as I’d like to do so! At least having a place to store ideas until they can see the light of day makes me feel a bit better about my erratic posting schedule.
This system has worked great for more than a year now — I hope y’all find it helpful, too!
Click here to download the EFM Blog Planning PDF.
20 November 2013
I ordered my Emily Ley Simplified Planner last September. Over the last year, t’s become an essential part of our household, so I thought I’d give you a little tour!
But first, a brief note on nomenclature: Emily has changed her product offerings in the last year, so what was known as the Simplified Planner is now being marketed as the Simplified Life Binder (I like the pool stripes in the new version!). If you’re interested in a more traditional day planner, that’s the job of the new Simplified Planner. I have to say, I think this change-up is a good move on her part, because as you’ll see, it’s much closer to how our family uses this product!
Along with the Simplified Planner itself, I started with Emily’s monthly calendar pages, tabbed dividers from the Martha Stewart line at Staples, and some of Martha’s lined paper (my favorite — very thin lines in a pretty turquoise color).
In our house, Emily’s binder is command central. It travels to and from work with me every day, and when I get home, I generally set it on the bar in our kitchen so John and I can both access it. Currently, we have sections for our calendar, Em for Marvelous, meal planning, household maintenance, and the community garden I work with. As you can see, not all the tabs are marked, because some sections are still awaiting a final purpose!
Each of the dividers has a pretty reminder taped to the front:
This one is courtesy of the lovely Kelly Cummings. I love flipping open the cover and seeing it greet me every day!
One of the main reasons I choose to use a paper calendar instead of an electronic one is that it is most helpful to me to see every event on every day of the month at the same time. So much of what I’m scheduling needs to happen in relation to other things, and I hate having to click back and forth between days or switch between the day view and the month view so I can see every event happening on a certain day.
I like to stick colorful washi tape over the days we’re traveling or on vacation.
Emily’s calendar pages have a “list” section on the left-hand side. I use this space for two things: to jot down my goals for the month (after writing my monthly goal post) and to keep track of John’s schedule (he works different hours each day of the week, and his schedule switches four times a year). Apparently I hadn’t written my goals for September down yet when I took these photos, but I promise you that that’s what I do.
There are about 16 months in my planner right now. To make it easy to find the current month, I paper clip it to the divider so I can flip to it immediately.
I’m going to post separately on our blogging, meal planning, and household maintenance sections, and each post will have accompanying printables! In the meantime, I wanted to comment on the quality of the planner. Given the abuse I’ve put it through (namely being stuffed in my work bag every day with a jumble of other things), I’d say it’s held up well. It’s still very clean looking, though it does have a few tears along the bottom edge on the front. It looks like Emily’s new binders are made out of a different material which looks even sturdier. I know some people wish it was more portable, but that’s really not an issue for me, because I already carry a tote bag (with my laptop, etc. in it) to work every day, not just a purse.
What do y’all use for your calendar? A day planner? iCal? GCal? I’ve used many things over the years, including a pink leather Filofax when I was in high school :)